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Zooming After Graduation
Written May 7, 2021


The Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College recently hosted an internet talk by the former Barbara Boese of the Class of '66, now Dr. Barbara Wolanin.  She was a senior when I was a freshman, but she returned to receive a Master's degree in art history at my graduation in 1969.

In 1985, Dr. Wolanin was hired to oversee the conservation of Constantino Brumidi's 19th-century frescoes at the United States Capitol.

The Architect of the Capitol is actually an office with 2,300 employees.  As Curator, Dr. Wolanin cared for murals, paintings, sculptures, and archival materials for more than 30 years.

Among other adventures, she oversaw the restoration of the 1863 Statue of Freedom atop the dome, 288 feet above the East Front Plaza.

Now retired, she wasn't directly involved with cleaning up following the January 6 riot.  The damage was estimated at $30 million, but most of it fortunately didn't consist of slashing or smashing artworks but merely spraying them with liquids.


I took a different route after graduation from Oberlin.  I obtained my Master's at Newhouse — Syracuse University's Newhouse School of Public Communication.

To a small-town kid like me arriving in Syracuse, it was a big city, with buses and TV stations and even an international airport. 

Afterwards I would return to towns that lacked those amenities but did have local cable TV studios for me to run.  The studios proved unprofitable, and by 1980 I was out of work.

“In looking for a new job,” I wrote at the time, “naturally I looked at cable TV program positions, but there weren't many available.  I wasn't sure I wanted to stay in the same field, anyway.  I was still doing essentially the same things after ten years in the business, and the two companies I had worked for had both eventually shut down their program operations.

“I had enjoyed teaching the studio-operations part of a winter term course in TV production that was taught at Washington & Jefferson College, so I asked the chairman of the education department at W&J whether he thought I might be qualified to be a college instructor.  He did, so I applied at several schools and was interviewed at one, little Salem College in West Virginia.”

I had no idea how to make a lesson plan and would need to take education courses at WVU.  I seriously wondered whether I'd be able to succeed as a college instructor.  “I wasn't sure this was what I wanted, but it turned out that I didn't have to make that decision because Salem never called me back.”

Four decades later, I still wonder whether I could have made that career change.  In the wake of the pandemic, the Washington Post cites a survey this year that “found that 66 percent of the unemployed had ‘seriously considered’ changing their field of work, a far greater percentage than during the Great Recession.  ...But those efforts are being frustrated. In some cases, the problem is a mismatch in skills.”

The day after Dr. Wolanin's talk, Newhouse held a Zoom presentation on “How to Transition from Profession to Faculty,” so I decided to check it out.

I've recently joined other Syracuse webinars featuring such alumni as Stephen Colbert's executive producer Chris Licht '93.  We also heard from CBS correspondent Weijia Jiang '06, who grew up in West Virginia.

White House reporters often are shown in front of the residence portion of the building, though the offices are elsewhere.  Weijia recently posted a rainbow photo foregrounding the West Wing, where the action actually takes place.

During the May 7 webinar, part of “Alumni SUccess Week,” I was reminded that finding a good position often depends on networking with other people.  And if you come from the real world to teach about it, the key seems to be to tell the kids what you've been doing.  Give examples.

Many of the six SU faculty members on the panel began as adjunct professors, on short-term low-salary contracts.

Dan Pacheco is a “professor of practice” who splits his time between instructing and continuing to work in his field.  He teaches digital journalism two ways, one section in person and the other online, and he says the outcomes are quite different because virtual students don't have access to all the equipment and can't drop in to talk during office hours.

Another “POP” is Olivia Stomski, who teaches for part of the week in my old department (Television, Radio and Film) but also produces live sports telecasts for ESPN, including overseeing ACC Network studio shows. 

Her experience upon first arriving in Syracuse was the opposite of mine, because she came from a city that actually is big (Los Angeles).  The population of Syracuse is less than 150,000.  Somewhat to her surprise, she discovered that “people are nice here!  It's weird.”



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