Pat Spence

Director, Department of Student Publications at Stephen F. Austin State University

Pat Spence, BJ '68

Degree(s): BJ '68

Whereabouts: United States, Nacogdoches, Texas

What do you do?
I direct and advise the Department of Student Publications at Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas. The job includes purview over the university’s twice-weekly, independent student newspaper and its online presence, and its yearbook. I also teach a course on advanced newswriting and special projects in SFA’s Department of Global Media.

How did you get your job?
I served as a graduate assistant with the Student Publications Department during my master’s degree work here. The job combined my love of newspapers with my passion for teaching, a match made in heaven. When the job became open, I went after it. In my 25 years in this job, I have been named Texas Intercollegiate Press Association Adviser of the Year three times, the only person in the state to have received this honor three times.

What is the best professional lesson you learned at the J-School?
There were so many, and I use them in my teaching every day. To this day, I never use the word “very” in my writing because I can hear Dale Spencer’s voice in my head: “If you’re going to use the word ‘very,’ you might as well say ‘damn’.” On a larger scale, I learned to get the basics right, and the rest will follow.

What advice do you have for current students?
Take advantage of every challenge available to you at Mizzou, even it it scares you on the front end. Those are the experiences that will pay off for you in the long run.

What is your favorite J-School memory?
After my first newswriting lab, a friend and I walked home together, each of us in shock and, admittedly, in tears. The teacher had made us put all of our writing utensils – pens and pencils – in a box, and we were allowed to pick them up after lab. It was my first experience composing at a keyboard, and it scared the liver out of me. I wasn’t at all sure I could do this J-School thing. Today, I can barely write with a pen. If it doesn’t get written at a computer terminal, it usually doesn’t happen with me.

Any parting comments?
I can honestly say I have never taken a job for which I did not feel absolutely prepared. I attribute this to my J-School education. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to study something I love at a place that is the best in the world. It has served me well throughout my life.

Updated: November 11, 2011