Thoughts with Profs: Authenticity, humility, and respect can go a long way

Column by Alex Davis

Instructor of Teaching in Communication

Manager 88.3 WLFC the Pulse


It was the hottest of hot summer days in New York City as I was walking down 6th avenue in 2013 when I looked up and saw Nick Cannon. At the time I was working as a foot courier, delivering packages for a company called LightSpeed. My uncle who I was living with in the Bronx got me the job where he managed several dispatchers. Being that it’s New York City it’s not unusual to see celebrities, but for some reason at times it was still shocking to me. We as a society may tend to forget that they are indeed humans just like us. Anyways, Nick was suited and booted as he quickly made an appearance for a Snapple promotion. I had grown up on media produced by and/or involving Nick from the likes of All That, Love Don’t Cost A Thing, and Wild n’ Out. Therefore, I was pretty excited to see him in person. Of course, I asked for a picture and of course he was all smiles. This made me happy for several reasons, but one stands out more than others.

My duties in New York were twofold that summer – delivering packages for LightSpeed and more importantly the reason I was in New York – doing my dream internship at SiriusXM (Shade45 & HipHop Nation). Monday through Friday was bonkers for me. I would wake up at 5 a.m. to catch the express bus at 6 a.m. This would put me in the city in time to get a breakfast wrap from Subway and report to work by 7:30 a.m. I would then deliver packages until 2p when I would change clothes and catch the train to be at the internship from 3 -11 p.m. I would catch the express bus back home, get 4-5 hours of sleep, and do it all over again. I highlight my daily schedule for the following reason.

My attire for delivering packages consisted of hoop shorts, a dingy t-shirt and some sneakers; whereas, my gear for the internship was way more well-put-together (I was a sneaker head working in entertainment so showing up fly to work was not only welcomed, but encouraged). Throughout the summer I consistently noticed a difference in how I was treated per which half of my day I was in. There seemed to be a lack of respect in various environments when I was in my work attire as opposed to a happy and willing acceptance when I was in my internship attire. There are several subjective factors to be taken into account here right? Maybe it was all in my head. Maybe I wasn’t projecting the confidence I needed to. Maybe I wasn’t performing the duties of my job to the right standard (there were a few occasions when I was late on delivery for sheer lack of ability to efficiently navigate New York City streets). Whatever the reason may or may not be, I felt a difference in treatment.

Here’s the thing – in the 2-3 minutes I was around Nick he was the most authentically charismatic individual who looked at me as though I had just won the gold medal at the Olympics. And yes, I was in my work attire (hoop shorts and dingy t-shirt). This made my entire day. Mind you the man was probably busy as all get out and did not have to say yes to taking a picture with me or the several others that he took one with as well. For me, it was a lesson and one that I already knew, but resonated even more with me in that moment.

Treat the janitor in the building the same way you would the owner of the building. There are a million analogies we can place there, but you get the point. Remain humble and treat everyone with respect, care, and warmth no matter their place in the world.

Now, before we close this thing out – let’s bring it back to collegiate quarters. I was a fresh 23 years old at the time and newly enrolled in the Masters program for Media & Communication at BGSU. I graduated with my Bachelors in Telecommunications from BGSU the previous year and initially had no plan to pursue more education. I was working part-time at The Juice 107.3 in Toledo and full-time at Fifth Third Bank on Main Street in Bowling Green as a teller. Fall 2012 rolls around and I realized there was opportunity out there that I hadn’t seized. I wanted to do another internship or even more. However, to do so I needed to be able to receive academic credit which meant I needed to enroll in school again. I quickly learned community college wasn’t an option which meant going for my Masters as I wasn’t going to begin another 4-year program. I took my GRE that December and applied to several schools. I hadn’t received anything back when one day in April a former professor of mine, Dr. Melkote walks into the bank and tells me the department has some leftover funding wanting to know if I’d be interested in joining the program. My answer was, YES! A few days later, SiriusXM (who I had already applied for) emails me saying that I’ve been hired on for their summer internship. Everything was coming together beautifully. God was continuing to show favor and rain blessings.

Little did I know that the Masters program I had applied for out of sheer desire to do more internships would become the same Masters program that spiked my love for academia (I could have cared less about school during undergrad as I was just there to make my mother happy). This love for higher education would continue through the rest of the Masters program and onto the PhD program that I am currently in. Throughout my academic career I have done six different internships – all unpaid. Now I’m not saying go work for free by any means, but for me it was about getting in the door at these places. Furthermore, the network and base of knowledge that I was able to create are things that are still working for me today. So, if you’ve made it this far in the book – there are 3 things I hope to have gotten across to current and future students:

  1. The college campus is a network of opportunity. Success is at your front door. It’s not down the street or around the corner. It is at your front door – you just have to open it and walk into it. Talk to everyone. Don’t leave college with regret – whether it be not getting involved in something or giving something a chance. Tap into everything you can – you never know what you may love that you weren’t aware of previously.
  2. College is about the 2 E’s – Education & Experience. These two concepts go hand-in-hand. Not only should you be getting the knowledge you need to operate, excel, and compete in your desired field, but actual experience in your field – on and off campus. Aside from academic education and experience, college is equally about life education and experience. College is a time to find yourself, grow yourself, and pour into yourself. Life is going to hand you what you may perceive as losses, but it is up to you to turn those ‘losses’ into ‘lessons’ – therefore, you take no L’s. Turn those ‘losses’ into victories! Enjoy your time on campus and during your collegiate career. It is what you make of it!
  3. Be of service – think about how you can assist others. The more you give, the more you get. Treat everyone with equal respect. Be as open and as welcoming as possible. Also, be of service to yourself. Give yourself a break, take a breath, and pat yourself on the back. Life is tough, let alone college.

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