Connecting Classroom to Career
Manie Robinson ’06 is a busy guy.
One of South Carolina’s most recognizable faces in sports journalism, he works full time as a columnist covering Clemson University for The Greenville News despite living in Columbia. His wife, Parthenia (Luke) Robinson ’07, is pursuing her Ph.D. at the University of South Carolina. His own quest to earn a Master of Fine Arts in documentary production from Wake Forest University requires him to drive to Winston-Salem, North Carolina twice a week, and he’s writing a book – all while being a father to two small children.
But when Cynthia King, Ph.D., chair and associate professor of communication studies, asked if Robinson would be willing to spend five weeks on campus this winter as the department’s Professional-in-Residence, there was no question what his answer would be.
“When Furman calls, it’s hard to say no,” he says with a chuckle. It was even easier to say yes when King explained what her new program was all about. A survey had indicated students wanted a stronger connection between classroom and career, which caught King’s attention and put the idea wheel in motion.
“I thought, rather than just career days, what if we embedded a professional in some of our classes,” King says. “We wanted something a little more substantive than someone getting up there and telling war stories. It’s important to connect classroom learning to skills and knowledge that they’re going to need in the professional world.”
Patrick Kerley ’04, managing director at global public relations and communications firm Burson-Marsteller, was the program’s first Professional-in-Residence in the fall. Robinson arrived on campus Feb. 2 and has since been a fixture in Furman Hall teaching classes, sharing his work, offering advice and answering questions about a rapidly changing field.
One thing he has stressed above all else is the importance of loving what you do.
“I’m not recruiting people into journalism, but I have championed how important it is. They need to find what they think is that important,” Robinson says. “That’s what is great about Furman – you don’t really come in saying, ‘I’m going here, and four years later I’m going to have this job.’ You go here to find a vocation – something that you enjoy and that makes you feel like you’re contributing to society, your community and your career.”
Robinson was fortunate in that he found his passion before he even arrived on campus. He interned at his South Carolina hometown paper, the Anderson Independent-Mail, the summer after he graduated from high school and worked as a freelance writer covering high school games throughout his time at Furman. But as the journalism industry has struggled and digital media has overwhelmed print, Robinson knows the future is uncertain.
Adapt to survive is how he puts it, which is part of the reason for branching into documentary film making. Being willing to accept change and explore new things is the key to a future in communications.
“It’s about being able to figure out how to be passionate and tell stories in different mediums,” he says. “Journalism is kind of a natural progression for a communications major, but there are so many other successful professionals out there who can open up their minds to different possibilities.”
Robinson says interacting with students who are sitting in the very same classrooms where he earned his communications studies degree has reminded him why he did it.
“I’m surprised I haven’t gotten more questions about the formula for getting a job. They’ve been more interested in the process of storytelling, and that’s really moving,” he says. “They’re not just wanting to get the assignment done; they’re actually interested in this stuff.
“It’s been great for me, and kind of rejuvenating, to see them engaged in this material, in this space, and thinking about these things.”