Welcome to the limited series return of BETWEEN THE PAGES, running Mondays and Wednesdays now through mid-December 2020! Dubbed BETWEEN THE PAGES: FINDING MY VOICE, follow Shannon’s journey as she learned and grew to become more of a public speaker, and how she’s still learning today! Today is Installment 9,  “Taking Presentations into Academia”.

I worked in entertainment for the next several years, the most notable of those jobs being a Production Coordinator on the short-lived season of INVADER ZIM in 2001. The events of late that year threw the economy for a loop for some time to come, and animation – not to mention entertainment – was no exception. By 2002, it seemed certain I might have to move back home to Washington State as I was quickly running out of funds.

Something I’d flirted with in the past was going to get a Masters degree. Given Fall had already started at various campuses, and not all schools had opening for Spring admissions, it appeared to be a long shot. After some research, I discovered that California State University-Fullerton would take students into their Masters program in Spring 2020. All that I needed to do would be to take the GRE and send them my transcripts; my BA in Radio-TV from Eastern was likely to exempt me from their lower division course requirements for pre-admittance (this turned out to be true for all but one class, Statistics, though I did take a number of senior level courses based on my interests and allowed 400 level electives).

On the financial side of things, I was taking the risk of living off student loans for now and paying back later, since those would include room and board allowances. While far from idea, it was definitely my best option.

However, the window to take the GRE would fast be closing. I’d taken it on paper once while I was still at Eastern in case opportunities to go to Los Angeles did not come up; I did not pass that time. I’d located a computer based GRE testing center that would be able to process results and get them to California, State University, Fullerton in time – all that I needed to do was cram a couple weeks for the GRE and pass it! That didn’t seem highly likely.

Amazingly, even to me, I pulled it off. I began in the MA program for Communications at California State University, Fullerton in Spring of 2003. I did not declare a concentration, as I wanted a wide breadth of knowledge, something the program does not allow today as an emphasis must be declared. My program drew from a mix of the marketing and non-profit areas primarily, but for my three advisors for my thesis I made sure to augment with a faculty member from the Entertainment and Travel specialty (a joint venture with the Business department).

One of the courses I took was called “Deconstructing Disney,” where we looked at Disney’s influence on various aspects of communications and society. It was taught by someone I’d had and really enjoyed for my non-profit public relations class, and as Disney is synonymous with entertainment, was right up my alley. All my grad school courses required papers and presentations on various subjects, and for this class I chose to explore the idea of “Learning With Disney: Examining Walt Disney Studios as a Driving Force in Early Animated Educational Films” and seeing how elements of the more-recently developed education-entertainment theory applied to the films Disney made to educate the public in World War II.

My instructor found my paper compelling and effective, so much so that she let me know about an academic conference being help by the Popular Culture Association of America in San Diego in 2005 and suggested I present my paper there. This both excited and terrified me, but ultimately I decided to do it.

Next time, join me as I talk about my experiences at an academic conference.