Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - May 8, 2020
"Zooming" into retirement
After husband Art's and my annual January holiday trip to Wisconsin, I returned to Manhattan with some mixed emotions. Having submitted
my retirement papers, I knew this semester would be special as it would be my last at Kansas State University. Little did I know just
how special it would be.
Spending the last few weeks working from home has been a bit strange, but because I'm an introvert and easily amused, I didn't expect it would be a problem. I was kept busy through the early stages of the campus closure by familiarizing myself with some new technology I needed to use and making arrangements for students who suddenly found their internships canceled.
But as time moved on and things began to settle into a pattern, I discovered I miss my daily interactions with my journalism-department family and coffee breaks with friends from across campus and beyond.
I began working for K-State in August 1983, serving a dual appointment with what was then Student Publications Inc. and the journalism and mass communications department. My 30th birthday was a month later, making me just a few years older than the students I supervised on the Collegian advertising staff and those I taught in Ad Sales and in News and Feature Writing.
Over the years, I've taught other classes, and I've coordinated the internship program since 2003. I haven't actually counted the students I've taught during my three-plus decades, but it would probably number around 3,000.
Some wrote glowing reviews on my evaluations, saying such things as "Gloria is my favorite professor at K-State." Others were blunt, if not exactly helpful: "This class blows!" I framed the two contrasting evaluations and put them on my office bookcase as a reminder that you can’t please everyone.
I've always felt lucky to have a job where I could "re-invent myself" every semester. I taught the same classes for many years, but I always added new elements, primarily by assigning writing projects related to local history topics, such as World War II, Kansas rural schools, the many trails crisscrossing the state, the 150th anniversary of the founding of Manhattan, and "lost towns" of Clay County, Kansas. Many were published in area newspapers or featured on radio programs.
One of the "lost-town" stories — about Morganville, Kansas adopting Fèves, France after World War II — resulted in years of background research, multiple trips to France, and many interviews in both towns. It also led to a renewal of the sister-city relationship. Art and I hope to publish a book relating the story in English and French by the end of 2020.
When I began at K-State, we were still using typewriters — some electric and some not — in our labs. Now, most students have their own laptops, and they're able to "plug and play" in our computer labs, letting them take full advantage of editing software and programs that are suited to a multi-monitor interface.
Students were once asked to specialize in print, broadcast, public relations or advertising. Now, they should be able to "do it all" — write for print, online and broadcast; take photos and shoot video; do audio clips; analyze data; and post to social media.
But while the technology has changed, doing good research and telling clear, accurate, interesting stories are still crucial skills. Curiosity, compassion, common sense and persistence also go a long way in determining whether someone will be successful.
Since 1998, I've also been director of the Huck Boyd National Center for Community Media, for which I organized annual lectures and workshops. Through the center, I worked with the Kansas Press Association, the Kansas Association of Broadcasters, the National Newspaper Association and the International Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors. I conducted research and wrote papers related to community media in the Kansas cities of Greensburg, Humboldt and Emporia. I’ve always been a cheerleader for strong, local news coverage, and I’ve become an even stronger advocate as time has passed.
Coordinating the Collegian student newspaper centennial in 1996 and the Miller school centennial in 2010 was a lot of work, but I mostly remember it as being fun times!
I graduated in journalism in 1975 and received my master's in business administration in 1983. Both degrees were from K-State. In between, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador for two years, a reporter/co-manager of a twice-weekly English-language newspaper in San Jose, Costa Rica, and a reporter on several Kansas weeklies.
During my tenure at K-State, a number of personal events had a great impact on my life — the death of my first husband Jerome, the birth of our daughter Mariya, my marriage to Art, the birth of our daughter Katherine, and a major illness during which I was hospitalized for three months.
Throughout my professional and personal triumphs, sadness and joy, my K-State family has stood by me. I owe a big "Thank you" to K-State in general and to the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications. But mostly, I feel thankful for all the people around the world who have made a difference in my life.
And while this unusual ending was certainly unanticipated, it perhaps is better than the one I had expected. At a university, one year typically follows the last with only minor variations, and retirees feel as if they are leaving a ship that is ever so slowly and predictably moving forward. But I'm pretty certain people will remember the spring of 2020 as being not quite so orderly. Leaving my office and the campus to work from home has also served as a sort of gentle separation from a place that has been my home-away-from-home for so long.
So, here I go - "Zooming" into retirement by using the teleconferencing app we've all become so accustomed to. But I do so hope we can all see each other face-to-face again soon.
A career! Upper-left: 1985 advertising staff; upper-right: Spring 2017 News and Feature Writing class; bottom-left: after a Huck Boyd lecture with speaker Lisa Silvestri with my campus colleague Art DeGroat; bottom-right: in my K-State office.