Reality has finally sunk in. I have reached the end of my time at Coastal Carolina University, a place that has provided me with fulfilling work and lasting memories. It has been a nearly six-year journey, one that has encompassed the better half of my professional career. It is impossible to properly convey in a blog post all what CCU has meant to me, but at the very least I can use it to offer a few final thoughts before I close this chapter.
I feel blessed that I worked at CCU during its glory years. When I started in May 2014, Coastal Carolina was an FCS-institution on a nice, quiet campus. By the time 2018 rolled around, enrollment had steadily increased, fundraising broke records, several state-of-the-art buildings had been erected, Ph.D. programs were being offered, a major NCAA championship had been won, and the athletic program had joined the BCS. These years of upgrades, milestones, and increased prestige served as a breeding ground for a social media program to explode.
I had the good fortune of being at the right place at the right time under a leadership team that made a dedicated commitment to social media. I had the freedom to think and act creatively with marketing and communication professionals who helped turn ideas into reality. From day one, it was an absolute blast.
I had the privilege to develop a Chanticleer social media voice, interview students, cover events, design campaigns, provide comfort in times of vulnerability, lecture in classes, chat with the media, jump head-first into paid digital advertising, and so much more. The backdrop for all this excitement was a special Feel the Teal culture that you just won’t find at other places.
Looking back at my time at CCU it all seems almost too good to be true. Not because the university is just minutes from the beach or because the school colors are some of the best in the nation, but because of something else. Something not so superficial.
I am talking about my University Marketing and Communication team.
My wish is to go out giving credit to the people who helped me on a daily basis; the people who literally optimized their talents to make our social media program better even when they had a thousand other things to do. If not for them, #CCUSocialMedia is not what it is today.
Let me start with Bill Plate (department vice president, now at Utah State), the man whose innovativeness and vision made me not think twice about moving across the country. Bill took marketing at CCU to new heights, placing a premium on social media. He taught me more than just marketing—he taught me that effective leadership is about humility, levelheadedness, and trust in the team. Thanks for hiring me, Bill.
The first person I ever met at CCU was Martha Hunn (chief communication officer). She picked me up from the hotel for my on-campus interview in March 2014 and immediately I thought this person has it together. She taught me how to be poised and composed when the media came calling and always made sure I had everything I needed on the social media front when major university statements were released.
For the majority of my time at CCU, I had the good fortune of reporting directly to Lindsi Glass (associate vice president for marketing and branding, now at Utah State). You won’t find anyone more creative, smart, and FUN! Lindsi allowed me to flex my social media muscle while at the same time expanding my horizons in the marketing world beyond just social. She was a tremendous team player, someone who effortlessly connected with everyone in the department and threw the best Kentucky Derby parties ever. If not for Lindsi, I would not have had my career moment late last year when we presented in Las Vegas. Lindsi and I understood each other and shared character traits, making for a great working relationship and paving the way for a personal support system as well.
Perhaps one of the best developments during my time working in University Marketing and Communication was when Judy Johns was elevated to director of photography. This was a game changer for not only our social media program but for CCU as a whole. Not only did she modernize Coastal’s photography operation and build a team that clicks (no pun intended) on all cylinders, but, like Lindsi, she is the epitome of a team player.
Scott Dean and Tad Robinson, the other two professional photographers of the unit, would literally drop anything they were doing to help me, whether it be to take a photo or find one.
During my time as a Chanticleer, the emphasis in social media switched to video. David Russell, newly installed as the director of video production at the time, didn’t hesitate to throw the talents of his unit behind #CCUSocialMedia. If I asked David to assign one of his videographers to a social media project and no one was available, he would step in himself. On a personal note, David and his wife, Robin, went out of their way to provide support to Sid and I after Sloan was diagnosed with Pyloric Stenosis. I will never forget that.
Most of the time when David would assign a videographer to a social media project, he would turn to Geoff Insch. My best friend in the entire department, Geoff and I collaborated on numerous projects during my time at CCU. He knows how to create video for social media and is damn good at it. Geoff did everything I ever asked of him and we had a lot of fun together. I will miss his positive attitude and our shared love for all things nerdy.
I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize Richard Green, our digital journalist. Richard is one of the hardest working people I have ever met and constantly provided high quality video content for use on our social channels. He was always a joy to coordinate with and a true example of a consummate professional.
The graphics team led by Rob Wyeth provided me with creative designs from the moment I stepped foot on campus. Whether it was a logo for an organic campaign, graphic for a major (sometimes minor) holiday, or something for a paid social media ad, “the guys”––Jonathan Ady, Regis Minerd, Ron Walker, Daniel “Scoops” Mableton––would always have my back. Special thanks to these gentlemen for welcoming me to their lunch table when I was brand new at CCU and for inviting me out for beer and movies.
At the end of 2018, I had the opportunity to hire a social media specialist. Anthony Bowser joined our team and instantly improved #CCUSocialMedia with his creative ephemeral storytelling, witty Instagram captions, and Gen Z-first outlook. He has a bright future ahead of him!
AP Style was valued by #CCUSocialMedia and editors Caroline Rohr, Mel Smith, Mona Prufer, and JoAnne Dalton would always quickly turn around anything I gave them for proofing. They helped us look good in front of our audience!
Speaking of quick turnaround time, Brentley Broughton (web design manager) would promptly assist with any issue I was having while navigating the university’s content management system. He also taught me a thing or two on the golf course.
Thanks to Trenny Neff (trademark and licensing coordinator) for processing all our social media advertising bills, Jeanne Caldwell (graphics project manager) for assigning and delivering all my graphics requests, and Doug Bell (editor of Coastal Magazine) for believing in the social media guy to write the cover story for a major publication.
Special thanks to my student social media interns over the years: Jada Tomlinson, Lauren Eckersley, Eddie Harris, Monica Trepiccione, Temperance Russell, Brandon Brown, Michelle Rashid, and Katie Ennis. It has been a joy to watch many of these former students thrive in the professional world.
Last but not least, I want to give an extra special thank you to Kimberly Harper, the administrative assistant of University Marketing and Communication. When I would introduce my student interns to her, I would simply describe her as the MVP of our department. She does everything for everybody in MarComm, doing far more than just serving the vice president. If there was a glue within University Marketing and Communication it would be Kim. I will miss her.
Of course everything would have been in vain without an audience that was passionate about Coastal Carolina University and hungry for social media content. To the thousands of #TEALnation supporters who gave me such satisfaction on a daily basis, THANK YOU.
Although I now look forward to my next adventure in higher education, I will never forget CCU. My experience as a Chanticleer made me a better professional and person. At this time, there is really only one final thing to say…