Motivational conversations

JoAnne Holman prepares students for real-world experiences
By Kate Marshall ( '04 )

Originally published in Spring 2007, this is just one of many stories from Madison magazine's award-winning Professors You Love series, written by JMU students and alumni, about the professors that have made the most impact on their lives — then, and now.

JoAnne Holman

For Kate Marshal ('04), JoAnne Holman, media arts and design professor, woman of letters, and fortuitous and generous adviser, provides wisdom and guidance that far surpasses the value found in any textbook.

"I can still hear JoAnne Holman's words echoing in my head: "Remember numbers one through nine are written out, and 10 and above should be in numeric form." There I was, a lowly sophomore, flipping through my Corporate Media Writing handbook to find editing tips to correct the next error-laden sentence on my handout. At the end of the semester when it came time to sell back books, I left this writing book in the dorm. It is still on my bookcase to this day.

During my four years at JMU, I took two classes with JoAnne Holman — Corporate Media Writing and Corporate Communication Management. The wisdom and guidance I received from her outweighed the value of any textbook.

Although she wasn't my designated adviser, I would always seek her advice when it was time to enroll for the next semester's classes. I usually had a good idea of what School of Media Arts and Design courses that I wanted and needed, but Dr. Holman always raised issues I sometimes overlooked. Instead of just waving me off with a, "Sure, that looks fine," she asked detailed questions about my career goals. She gave me advice about professors and courses she thought would be beneficial, and she warned me about taking certain combinations of courses in a single semester so that I wouldn't be stressed out from January to May.

Whenever I ran into her in the hallways, she would inquire about how Feature Writing was going or if I had started thinking about summer internships. While I was always driven to succeed in college, my constant conversations with Dr. Holman kept me motivated to get the most from my classes and to seek out opportunities to utilize and expand my skills.

This was especially helpful during the second semester of my senior year. I began my job search in January and researched the type of positions that were available in the communication field. Who did I go to when I wanted background information about a marketing firm in the D.C. area or needed someone to edit a cover letter? Dr. Holman, of course. She was always more than willing to help.

Her advice and encouragement throughout my four years were priceless. Her words of wisdom will always be with me. I'm convinced that even the assignments she gave in class helped me long after I left Harrisonburg.

When I go on job interviews, I am usually asked about a specific challenge that I have faced or asked to give an example of my communication and public relations experience. I always mention at least one group project from Dr. Holman's Corporate Communication Management class, and I get the same reaction from each interviewer. They are impressed. Employers comment on how Dr. Holman's assignments so closely mirror real-world situations. They usually ask me about other things we did in her class.

Although I spent many nights at my computer until 3 a.m. and made many trips to Sheetz for yet another cup of coffee, the intense workload that I had in SMAD 441 now seems more than worthwhile. Dr. Holman prepared me for the real world.

She is more than just a professor. Dr. Holman is a mentor, a friend and sometimes even a personal cheerleader. While challenging classes, internships and campus activities helped prepare me for life in the real world, it is the support and guidance of a dedicated professor that makes all the difference.

About the professor
Prior to joining the JMU faculty, School of Media Arts and Design professor JoAnne Holman taught for seven years in the Perdue University Department of Communication. Her research and teaching interests center on how people use new communication technologies, especially how new technologies can be used to extend free speech and enhance the democratic process. Before joining academia, Holman worked in advertising, public relations and corporate communications.

About the author
Kate Marshall ('04) lives in Old Town Alexandria and works at Accenture as a consultant for government and communication clients. She earned a B.S. in media arts and design with a concentration in corporate communication. Marshall participated in various JMU student organizations, including the Student Government Association, Delta Delta Delta sorority, and the Madison Dance Club. She also served as a staff writer for
The Breeze.