Professor Barry Mitzman is an expert in every sense of the word. The director of Seattle University’s Center for Strategic Communications has a long history in, well, communicating strategically.
Mitzman’s varied talents have allowed his career to evolve in unexpected ways. Since arriving in Seattle in 1979 he has established as a force in the communications industry. Initially he started out as a journalist in town, writing for Seattle Weekly before being promoted to the weekly’s editor. His interest in covering local issues eventually lead him to television, where he worked as a reporter, producer and show host at Seattle public television station, KCTS. A shift into marketing and communications came after he left KCTS to take the job of vice president at SS+K, one of the country’s premier marketing and communications agencies. From there he was on to Microsoft, serving as director of strategic communications, managing public relations and advertising on behalf of the company.
It wasn’t until the fall of 2007 that Mitzman joined the Seattle University faculty. Soon Beng Yeap, assistant vice president of Marketing Communications and founder of SU’s Center for Strategic Communication, knew of Mitzman from his work at KCTS. public television. Although university officials had approved Yeap’s idea for a strategic communications degree program, it needed the nurturing of an esteemed professional like Mitzman for it to be fully realized.
“I met Barry when he was hosting a show on PBS called Serious Money,” Yeap explains. “Any businessman worth his salt wanted to be on Barry’s show.” Having respected Mitzman’s work for several years, Yeap asked him to oversee the then-fledgling program through the College of Arts & Sciences.
And the rest is history. Since he began teaching at SU, strategic communications students have reveled in Mitzman’s real-world teaching style.
Senior strategic communications major Richard Kaiser says Mitzman’s classes have helped prepare him for the workforce. “Barry consistently engages with students in a way that not only pushes us to a higher performance level, but also allows us to feel like professional peers,” says Kaiser.
Giving students professional experience in the classroom is precisely what Mitzman works for as a professor. “For me, teaching starts with the fact that this subject is very much grounded in practice,” Mitzman says. “I try to draw lessons from how strategic communications is actually done in the real world.”
“Public relations studies should prepare students to take on roles from Paris Hilton’s publicist to White House press secretary.”
-Barry Mitzman, director, Center for Strategic Communications
His expertise, dedication to students and passion for his work have established Mitzman as an influential presence within the communications department and beyond.
Miztman’s role at SU has given him the opportunity to pursue a critical social justice initiative, the Project on Family Homelessness. Working with SU students and local media outlets, the project works to raise public awareness of family homelessness in the Seattle area and explore how the media reports on issues around homelessness. The project recently received a second major grant of more than $180,000 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
While Mitzman has been integral in fostering and developing the strategic communications program at SU, he’d like to see it continue to evolve. For starters, he is looking to broaden the strategic communication’s curriculum, with more courses related to social media, advertising and public relations writing.
“Public relations studies should prepare students to take on roles from Paris Hilton’s publicist to White House press secretary,” Mitzman says. “We want our graduates to be able to take on careers like these, and everything in between.”