Otterbein Comm professor shares insights

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Otterbein Communication Department Professor Jean Kelly

Jean Kelly, Ph.D., assistant professor of public relations and journalism, has taught at Otterbein University for more than 10 years.  She recently shared her experience of how she moved from the art world to journalism to teaching.   

Q: What was your undergraduate background? 

Kelly: I actually have a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Ohio State. 

Q: What led you to pursue graduate studies in a different field? 

Kelly: I did get an art job out of college with the Columbus Museum of Art.  What I ended up doing was publication work.  I ended up writing and working on museum catalogues.  I was there for about a year and ended up applying for a position with Ohio State with a political science journal.  It was at that point that I decided to pursue a master’s degree because that was one of the benefits of my position.  I was equally interested in art history, as well as journalism.  In art, I was most interested in eastern art, particularly Japanese, and to pursue that I would have had to have fluency in the language.  That would have required me to start from scratch leaning Japanese, and that was kind of daunting.  So that’s why I pursued journalism. 

 Q: Did you have any experience in journalism before deciding to get your master’s degree?

Kelly: I started as a freelancer before taking any journalism classes, because I had an area of knowledge that was in demand at that time.  Business First, at that time, did this perfect, glossy bound quarterly arts magazine. I already had the background to write stories for that, so I began as a freelance writer simultaneous to pursuing a graduate degree.  That’s how I went from art to journalism because I married them.  It happened organically but it seemed to make sense.

Q: What are some of the differences in the education experience between undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D. programs?

Kelly: I remember seeing students in the master’s program at Scripps (Ohio University) just pursuing a master’s degree because they didn’t know what else to do.  There’s so much work that you’re really wasting your time if you haven’t made some careful decisions and think, “Yes, this is what I want to do because I want that professional certification to advance my career or because I want to teach.”  There’s got to be some motivation.  The classes assume you are looking for a depth of knowledge that is different from undergrad.

Q:  Do you think there is a correlation in strengths between successful master’s and Ph.D. candidates?

Kelly:  I think you have to have a real intellectual curiosity that isn’t dampened by crazy classes.  You have to go, “You don’t scare me because there’s stuff I want to learn here, darn it!”  So I think that the curiosity, you can’t teach somebody that.  It has to be what’s driving them.  That’s what drove me to graduate school.

I think you have to have a certain amount of life experience to know you’re in the right place. ‘Cause if you’re not in the right place, you won’t follow through.  It’s very intense.  There are plenty of people that get through the coursework because they are good students.  No one motivates you other than yourself.  If you’re not as curious about it and not motivated to get finished, then you won’t.

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