Manship School Professor Robert Mann recently published his new book, “Becoming Ronald Reagan: The Rise of a Conservative Icon.” Mann’s book is an extensive look at the beginning of Reagan’s political career.
Mann feels that this compelling biography of Reagan describes “an era where we cared about the truth.” Mann questions if, as a society, “do we care about the truth at all anymore or just want to be entertained?”
These thoughts were provoked because, according to Mann, Reagan was an incredible storyteller, but sometimes his stories were not entirely true. Reagan’s ability to engage an audience derived from his understanding of how “the entertainment industry could serve you well in politics,” Mann said.
The inspiration to write about Reagan began after Mann finished his last book, “Daisy Petals and Mushroom Clouds: LBJ, Barry Goldwater and the Ad that Changed American Politics,” which discusses the 1964 presidential election. During the election, one single point stood out to Mann as the most effective and persuasive tool of the entire campaign: the nationally televised speech on Oct. 27 that Reagan gave in support of Barry Goldwater. At the time, Goldwater was the Republican nominee for the presidential campaign. That speech, Mann argues in the book, was the highlight of Goldwater’s campaign and it launched Reagan political career.
Mann feels that the importance of the 1964 election and Reagan’s speech is the “dawn of modern campaigning; the DNA of what happened that race is in today’s politics.”
When Mann began writing his book, he initially intended to focus solely on Reagan’s speech, but Mann found that Reagan’s life leading up to that speech was much more intriguing. Reagan started as an actor turned liberal union leader and became a conservative icon.
“We do evolve; we do change, Reagan is a good example of that,” Mann said. “His evolution resonates with me because I used to be a conservative, I voted for him both times, but now I don’t agree with any of his policies, but I like him as a man.”
Dr. Tina M. Harris credits her dad’s career in the Navy for her interest in ethnic and cultural diversity. As the daughter of a military family, she spent her childhood in Detroit, Florida and Georgia, and she even spent part of her early childhood in Spain.
“Spanish was actually my first language,” Harris said. “It was a foundation for my thought about the importance of people being bilingual or multilingual, and it opened me up about different cultures at a very young age.”
Her interest in different cultures and diversity is what led Harris to the Manship School. In the spring of 2019, Harris was named the Douglas L. Manship Sr.-Dori J. Maynard Chair in Race, Media and Cultural Literacy at the Manship School – the first and only position of its type in the nation. As chair, Harris will research and teach on issues of diversity, access and social justice in media.
Harris became interested in the intersection of culture and representation through her own personal experiences growing up. Her father worked for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission when the family moved back to the United States, so Harris was always aware of racial inequalities in her community. During high school, Harris noticed the racial demographics of her neighborhood changing as her white neighbors moved to the suburbs and families of color moved in. That change prompted Harris to pay more attention to race relations in her own life.
Harris majored in Speech Communication at the University of Georgia, where she began to focus on the racial makeup of the communication studies field itself.
“I noticed that there were rarely any people of color in the communication theory research,” Harris said. “I thought it was interesting that I rarely saw myself represented in my field. When it came time for my thesis, I thought it was important to see myself reflected in research.”
For her master’s thesis, Harris studied the racial makeup of the University of Georgia (UGA) law school and the subsequent racial tensions that were uncovered by her research. As a doctoral student at the University of Kentucky, Harris focused her research on opinions about interracial dating and romantic relationships.
Harris returned to UGA in 1998 to teach business and professional communication, communication theory and interracial communication. She is also the co-author of the textbook “Interracial Communication: Theory into Practice.” Harris says she has taught these classes, namely interracial communication, at UGA for 21 years because they are integral to understanding communication today, even if some students can occasionally resist her message.
“I am committed to teaching these classes because they are so important,” Harris said. “I’ve learned how to navigate being the only black female in my department who is publishing on race and how to deal with students who are not open to my class, and I am still committed to doing this work no matter what.”
Harris was originally drawn to the Manship School after observing the sense of community and collegiality among the faculty members—something that stood out during her campus visit. She had also heard of the Manship School’s reputation for being a leading journalism school in the nation and was excited that people within the school were so interested in her work. She joined the faculty during the summer of 2019 and was recognized with the National Communication Association’s 2019 Robert J. Kibler Memorial Award soon after. The award recognizes dedication to excellence, commitment to the profession, concern for others, vision of what could be, acceptance of diversity and forthrightness.
“This award is a testament to the distinction that Dr. Harris is known for, not just in the region, but around the world, as a scholar, mentor and educator,” said Martin Johnson, dean of LSU’s Manship School. “We are thrilled to celebrate with her this well-deserved recognition as we proudly welcome her to our faculty.”
At the Manship School, Harris will teach an undergraduate course on media and multiculturalism and a graduate class on race, gender and political communication. As the Manship-Maynard Chair, she will conduct research on the intersection of race, media and culture.
“I’m looking forward to having an outlet to work on my passion and to engage with students,” Harris said. “The Manship School engages the community as well as the scholarly world, and I’m excited to have a structure in place so I can make a difference in students’ lives and the lives of the Baton Rouge community.”
Seth Medvin always knew he wanted to work in sports communications and today he is living his dream working as senior strategic communications manager for the Denver Broncos Football Club.
“My job is pretty cool. I met Mick Jagger last week. John Elway took our staff out to dinner recently, I spend a good portion of my day coordinating interviews with our players and not too long ago I met Garth Brooks,” Medvin said somewhat nonchalantly.
He is a 2013 Manship School of Mass Communication graduate who studied public relations and now struggles to name just one high point of his young career.
“I was a part of the Super Bowl-winning team my first year in Denver. I got to attend the White House visit, and I received a Super Bowl ring – that was amazing!” Medvin said. “I recently returned from Canton, Ohio, for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Ceremonies, too.”
Those are just a few of the more recent highlights of Medvin’s career, which includes interacting with athletes like Von Miller and Peyton Manning and working five Super Bowls.
On a day-to-day basis, Medvin oversees all the Broncos’ corporate public relations in addition to coordinating media requests for the team’s players. On any given day you might find him developing extensive talking points, prepping players and executives for interviews, working on a speech or writing press releases. He also works on business PR, including the development of sponsorship news, marketing events, community outings, stadium concerts and more.
Though he describes countless once-in-a-lifetime experiences during his past five seasons in the NFL, the highlight of Medvin’s career was the Broncos PR staff winning the Pete Rozelle Award from the Professional Football Writers of America for consistently striving for excellence in its dealings and relationships with the media—the most prestigious award any NFL pro football team communications office can win.
The Super Bowl champion Broncos earned the award for the third time in 2016 and the
second time in three seasons, and they have been nominated for the award every year they have been eligible. The Rozelle Award is named for the NFL commissioner from 1960-89, who started his distinguished career in sports as a publicist.
Even rubbing shoulders with celebrities and professional athletes on a regular basis, the Houston native hasn’t forgotten his roots as a youngster with dreams of working in sports communication. He spent his junior and senior years in high school tagging alongside a reporter who covered the Houston Texans, never missing a single home game from the press box for two years. Toward the end of his freshman year at LSU, Medvin got the big break he was longing for.
“I clicked on a link in an e-mail from the Manship School my freshman year about working in the sports information office, and it totally changed my life. I spent three years working with LSU associate athletics director Michael Bonnette and his team, assisting in nearly every facet of athletic communications,” Medvin said.
Nearly every day Medvin was in the LSU Athletics office working on game recaps for the web, press releases, social media posts, media guides and more. He worked primarily with football, baseball, basketball, swimming and diving, volunteering at every single home football and baseball game for three years.
“The Manship School made that connection for me and opened the doors. It taught me how to write and manage projects. I was able, really, through the Manship School to make my dream job a reality,” said Medvin. “I would not be where I am today without those connections.”
Caroline Isemann, a 2006 alumna of the Manship School, is the perfect example of what it means to be a leader in the communications industry. In fact, she was just named president of the Baton Rouge chapter of the Public Relations Association of Louisiana (PRAL) – the largest, most dynamic PR organization in the state.
Isemann is a natural when it comes to storytelling. She always loved to write and remembers making up stories as a child with her spelling words in elementary school. When it was time for college, Isemann chose to pursue her love of writing at the Manship School and quickly discovered that public relations was the perfect fit for her.
“When you get into the mass communication world, there are more opportunities available than just journalism,” said Isemann. “In a profession like public relations that’s always changing, we get to be more creative and find unique ways to get our story out there.”
Isemann says the classes she took at the Manship School gave her a unique insight into how public relations really works. “You take a lot of classes that make you be hands on, like our campaigns class when we worked with real clients. Those classes give you great experience. You don’t just read a book; you actually do it. You use those skills to help with everything you’re doing.”
After Isemann graduated from the Manship School, she went on to pursue a master’s in sport management from the University of Georgia in Athens. She first found an interest in sports communications when she was a student worker for LSU Athletics, and she later worked for UGA Athletics handling media relations for the NCAA Champion Gym Dogs.
“One of the great things about a communications degree is that there’s so many things you can do with it,” said Isemann.
Isemann eventually shifted gears and found herself interested in healthcare communications. Currently serving as the public relations coordinator for Woman’s Hospital, one of the largest women’s specialty hospitals in the country, she helps to promote the hospital’s programs and its impact on the Baton Rouge community. She also previously worked at Our Lady of the Lake, where she led media relations efforts for the children’s hospital among other communications projects.
“I could never be a nurse or doctor, but I love that I can still use my talents to help other people,” said Isemann. “I love that in healthcare, my skills as a communications professional can really make a difference.”
As she looked to solidify her career in public relations, Isemann knew it was important to get involved in networking in the Baton Rouge community. She heard about PRAL Baton Rouge and was immediately drawn to the professional community and leadership development opportunities in the organization.
Once a member, Isemann quickly took on numerous roles on PRAL’s Board of Directors, where she did what she was already great at doing – writing stories, building relationships, creating social media content and planning meetings and socials. Her leadership and expertise made her the perfect candidate for president. She was sworn in as president of PRAL Baton Rouge this past July.
“I’m excited and loving it,” said Isemann. “I love PRAL, and I want it to be great. Our Board is filled with talented and motivated professionals, and together we made a commitment to lean in and make some positive changes to build on the great things our predecessors have done so we can grow and develop our organization and its members even further.”
Isemann strongly encourages Manship School alumni to join organizations like PRAL wherever they live. “It’s a great way to be involved with other communication professionals. The relationships I’ve made through PRAL also have made a big difference when looking for jobs. You can’t underestimate the power of a positive reference.”
PRAL offers many opportunities for its members, including benefits like award programs and educational seminars. The next meeting on August 20 features Adam Knapp, CEO of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber, who’ll share about how his organization launched a national campaign to elevate the region’s image.
This blog is the final in a summer series by Manship School students who are traveling throughout Europe this summer as a part of LSU’s Media & Politics in Europe study abroad program. It provides a behind-the-scenes look at media, politics, policy, democracy and more as students meet with world leaders in London, Paris, Normandy, Brussels, Prague, Amsterdam and Berlin.
Throughout the month of June, Manship School students traveled around Europe to London, Paris, Amsterdam, Brussels, Berlin and Prague and examined strategies used by the governments, political parties, political consultants and activists to influence the news media. They visited and learned about the role of mainstream and non-mainstream media outlets in these countries. While their trip may be over, the experiences they gained overseas will forever change the way they perceive the world.
We asked a couple of these world-traveling students to share their experience with us.
What was your favorite part of the trip?
My favorite part of the trip was learning and interpreting the world alongside brilliant minds (both professors and students) that I can continue to learn from in Baton Rouge. I learned about different political views, different thought processes, and different ways to work through dilemmas. -Arden Hooper
Throughout my time studying in Europe, I experienced so many incredible things. I learned about Europe’s rich history, many different types of political systems and how they function and, most importantly, I learned how to communicate effectively with people from different cultures. -Samantha Lanham
How did this study abroad experience affect your outlook on your future career?
This trip has changed my outlook on my career completely. I’ve fallen deeper in love with the career of communications and I now know that I want to one day work for a humanitarian organization. I want to use my communication skills to make a difference in this world. -Samantha Lanham
Our classes on media ethics and real-life examples of acting ethically will undoubtedly influence my decision-making in my future career. -Arden Hooper
Overall, this program allowed me to expand my thinking in a way that I never thought possible, and I will be forever grateful for this experience. -Arden Hooper
Thanks to the Manship School, my amazing professors and this opportunity of a lifetime, I’ve found my passion. -Samantha Lanham