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Educator Spotlight: Mihaela Vorvoreanu, Ph.D.

Posted At: May 17, 2012 12:36 PM
by Mariah Fairweather

Social media and technology are hot topics in the field of communication and public relations. Mihaela Vorvoreanu, an assistant professor of computer graphics technology and technology leadership and innovation at Purdue University, not only studies this hot topic, but also engages students with her knowledge in this subject.

“What sets Dr. Vorvoreanu apart from other educators is her ability to see the potential in her students and motivate them to reach this potential. As an undergraduate, she gave me the unique opportunity to work with her, and then, believed in my academic promise even when I was unsure about my future plans,” said Geovon Boisvenue, a master’s degree student in technology at Purdue University.

Dr. V, as her students refer to her, was born in Bucharest, the capital of Romania. After she completed her undergraduate degree in communication and public relations, she came to the United States to attend graduate school at Purdue University.

“Communication and public relations were really brand new in Romania – I was in the first batch of students to graduate from the first PR department in Romania. I really wanted to have access to more knowledge and information about the field of public relations and since most of the scholarship came from the U.S., that’s where I wanted to pursue further,” said Dr. V.

Dr. V has spent much of her career as a PR scholar. She has done some consulting on the side, but most of her work is related to PR research, scholarship and teaching. Currently, she is interested in the work on online identity management across social networking sites.

“The most interesting thing is always the thing I am working on currently – or the next project. It seems this way because I am lucky enough to work on whatever stimulates my curiosity. So, to me, older projects are not that interesting, because I already know the findings,”
 said Dr. V.

Even though she is not currently teaching public relations, her field is very relevant to public relations students and professionals.

I interviewed Dr. V about social media, how it affects the public relations field and how people should use social media professionally.

Q: Even though you are no longer teaching public relations, you have a strong focus on social media. How do you think social media benefits the public relations field? What are the negative effects of social media on the public relations field?
A: I believe that social media has enabled public relations to practice the two-way dialogic types of PR that theorists have been advocating since the 1980s. On the other hand, social media can transform public relations into customer service, and while that may not be a directly negative effect, it can take organizations by surprise, because departments and decision-making processes may need to be restructured. Of course, social media has given publics a more powerful voice. Many in PR consider that a threat, but I would disagree.

Q: How do you use social media for professional use?
A: I use social media to connect with people I can learn from; with professionals my students can learn from; and to connect with my students. The latter is one of my favorite parts. I feel it extends learning opportunities beyond the classroom and enables me to sometimes be not only a prof, but also a mentor.

Q: Do you have any suggestions on how people should use social media professionally?
A: Yes, lots. I have a full paper on this topic, and I give lots of presentations to students and other groups about this. First, people should use social media for the professional aspect of their lives – not only the personal, social one. They should try to show their skills and interests. They should try to connect with people they can learn from – and learn from them, rather than be too focused on broadcasting. Too many people broadcast, too few people listen and learn.

Q: What blogs have you created and what do you write about? What is the advantage in creating a blog?
A: I have my personal professional blog, blogs for each class I teach (more or less) and a personal blog about my interests (yoga, vegetarian cooking, etc.). The advantage for me is that I get to document my thoughts, disseminate them and sometimes engage in conversations with other people about them. For my teaching blogs, the advantage is that I can teach beyond the classroom, and I can provide students the information they need when they need it. For example, if I see that students are struggling with a certain aspect of their final projects, I will write a blog post to help with that. It is almost like writing a textbook on the go, based on the students’ current needs.

Q: What advice would you give future public relations/social media practitioners?
A: Be true to yourself and others.

You can follow Dr. V on twitter @mihaela_v

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