That’s my office, second from the far left, ground floor. I couldn’t be happier to be here. This is the beginning of my second full week as a communications assistant at Southern Arkansas University, and so far, I’m having a blast. True, classes have yet to begin, and I’m sure that when they do there’ll be chaos and pandemonium, and a lot more work than I’m having to do at present, but I say, bring it on.
I have escaped the newspaper business and am happy to be shut of it. Good riddance to bad rubbish and all that. The rubbish I’d been dealing with was especially bad – not to mention hostile, not to mention gossipy – and I’m so much better off here. There seems to be a benefit attached to everything one does at SAU. My office computer, for example, is on top of one of those adjustable risers that you can lift up off your regular desktop and work while you stand. That’s what’s known in the civilized world as a “health benefit,” something newspaper companies don’t understand and don’t wish on their employees. Mental health seems to be a top priority here, too. My building, the wonderful and venerable edifice known as Nelson Hall, is quiet. Library quiet. My supervisor is a no-pressure kind of guy. Everyone is friendly and treats me like a colleague and not a warm body in a chair. In other words, not only is it great working for the State of Arkansas (hellllllllllooooooooooo, health insurance!) but it is awesome working in a university atmosphere, where there simply is no upside to being a petulant, loud-mouthed douche bag.
Here’s the biggest example of the changes I am undergoing. This morning, the university president stopped by my office and asked how I’m getting along. To be more specific, he asked if I was happy. That in itself is a paradigm shift. “Happy”? I’m used to getting a toe up the butt and told to do more with less of everything, faster and with no extra money.
AND, there’s more to the story. Our president (who has been called a “great visionary,” and whose great vision for the university I can attest to) last week invited me to take over as advisor to the campus newspaper, The Bray. “There is a stipend,” he promised, lest I think it was more work for … well, you know. I readily accepted, which means I am back, somewhat, in the newspaper game. This time, I’m in the capacity I’ve always wanted, as advisor to a university paper. I won’t be teaching, but hopefully I will have some influence on the minds of young journalists coming through SAU. We’ll see. All I can say is, I’ve been treated fairly, courteously, and like a valued member of a team here. That is 180 degrees the opposite of every newspaper I’ve worked for – and that includes more than a dozen across Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. It’s great to be home.