By Ian Forde
Michelle Steven is a popular Communication Arts professors with a bright personality who tells it how it is.
Professor Steven is also a business owner who is driven to achieve more. In an interview, I learned about her experiences and plans for the future.
What is your educational background? What attracted you to those fields?
I have earned degrees from several institutions: AAS in Broadcast management from Kingsborough Community College, BA in TV Production from Howard University, MA in Communication Arts from NYIT and an Ed.D. in executive leadership from St. John Fisher College. Broadcasting and production attracted me because it was a creative outlet which would enable me to tell the stories which were important to my community: women and people of color primarily.
What is your “Why”?
When I worked at ABC years ago, I noticed that the interns weren’t getting a quality experience out of a major market, premier network. At that point, I knew that I wanted to teach, part-time on the collegiate level. As the years passed, I earned my Master’s degree and sought adjunct positions to start preparing the next generation to enter broadcasting. I know what it means to be eager to learn and put your coursework to use; however, having a professor who has real world broadcast experience is priceless and that’s why I do what I do.
What do you enjoy most about teaching at St. Francis College?
I enjoy teaching at St. Francis because of the overall environment. The classes are intimate and the students really have the opportunity to build a better rapport with their instructors.
Who/what inspired you to start your own business? What was the most difficult part about getting it off the ground and what kept you going?
I started my own business (Royally Planned Communications) because I had just gotten laid off. I figured that even if I went back to work for an established company/network, I could still have a side hustle. The most difficult part of getting my business off the ground was first deciding if that’s what I truly wanted to do. Once I was firm on that decision, then I submitted the necessary paperwork, etc. Building up a clientele is the next component, which was a bigger challenge.
What has kept my company going is that I’ve tailored my services as the industry changes. Communications and its methods of practice change regularly and as an entrepreneur, you have to be flexible or else, you’re out of business.
What about public relations gets you excited?
The facet of Public Relations which was always exciting to me was HOW the story was being told. The spokesperson is the deliverer of the message. They have complete control over what’s being said about their client, from their perspective. The public waits with bated breath to hear what the publicist has to say.
What was your approach to taking on higher education, teaching students, and running a business simultaneously? How do you find peace when your schedule gets hectic?
As far as my career at St. Francis College was concerned, my business did not suffer. My balance came through having a small but significant client roster. I’ve carved out the niche in my business where I don’t have to be in constant communication with clients, vendors or influencers all day. I find my peace in the moments that I’m walking to the bus stop or walking in general (taking my dog out). I also bake!
Being that you’ve experienced both sides, what do you have to say to people who feel that they must choose entering entrepreneurship over going to college, vice versa?
You have to know where you fit in. There’s nothing wrong with challenging yourself, as running your own business is harder than 4 years of college! The reality is that college isn’t for everyone, neither is entrepreneurship. Going to college is about being educated and enlightenment, not about the money, whereas entrepreneurship is.
What are your most vital success tips for the students of St. Francis College?
Stay abreast of the trends in the industry which you plan on entering. Become affiliated with organizations connected to your field of study.
Given your big accomplishments, what is next in store for you?
In the coming months, I will be revamping my business to suite my new degree level & attract new clientele. I also plan on doing more speaking engagements and presentations at conferences.