Over the past two decades, #MasonCOMM alumnus and currently faculty member, Lance E. Schmeidler, has seen a lot of change. Over his time, he has watched the campus grow and expand from a small commuter school to one of the largest residential schools in the state; yet, he says he has always “appreciated how walking paths and nature are incorporated throughout campus.” This week we’ll learn more about a faculty member who does so much for the department and university.
Unlike most faculty, Schmeidler has had the opportunity to not only see the University as a whole change, but as a #MasonCOMM alumnus he has watched the department grow and change too. After graduating with a BA in COMM (2003), he started teaching the Basic Course (COMM 100 and COMM 101) as a graduate lecturer. After graduating with his MA in 2005, he became an adjunct and in 2011 was hired full-time.
Both of his degree paths focused on media production. Schmeidler said, “My background in media goes back to my childhood, when I created my own sound mixer and produced my own music, radio programs and commercials. Today we’d call these podcasts, but back then we were producing audio on cassettes and mailing them out to friends, family and radio stations.” When he arrived at Mason, he had plans to be an audio engineer. All that changed “when I took my first video production class and I realized that everything I did in audio could be done in video …and more. I was hooked!”
Schmeidler takes the passion he has for learning and passes it on to his students. He said, “Beyond teaching theory, application and skills, I bring over two decades of experience working in media to my classes. I’m motivated to prepare my students to find work in the field.” He prepares them through classroom activities designed to help them improve the skills needed to work in the always-changing media business. “My production courses incorporate industry research, and include information and postings for internships, daily contract work and entry level positions. Last year alone, I helped four students get their first gigs after graduation and consulted with another who started her own YouTube channel.”
An aspect of the job he enjoys most is getting to know the students on a personal level through their coursework and interactions in class. Schmeidler says, “Each of these students’ stories has a presence in my courses, to inspire future generations. It’s important to me that my students are knowledgeable of the industry and prepared to work as employees or independent contractors after taking my classes.”
While Schmeidler’s passion is media, he teaches a variety of courses within the department. He has taught the Introduction to Media Production for many semesters, and also teaches advanced media production classes such as Videography and Multi-Camera Studio Production. When needed, he enjoys teaching Public Speaking, Small Group Communication, Interpersonal Communication, Foundations of Intercultural Communication, and Nonverbal Communication.
His favorite class to teach might surprise you. While he loves all things media, Schmeidler said his favorite class is “COMM 305 Intercultural Communication. The course incorporates so many principles of interpersonal communication, which I enjoy exploring with students, and is very media driven given the influence of media on culture. I teach the course from a contextual approach, so students participate in different intercultural situations and evaluate their competencies. It’s a very powerful and enlightening experience for both the students and me!”
Teaching students is never dull and Schmeidler says “I’ve always enjoyed teaching communication because it is ubiquitous, everywhere in everyday life. The world moves through communication; yet, communication itself is so dynamic. We can never catch up to understanding it and so it never gets boring! It’s really fun teaching the same lesson to different classes because the discussions will often go differently; yet, be just as important and valuable.”
One of Schmeidler’s frustrations, that is shared by many people who teach, is the lack of resources available to students and faculty. He said that “has meant that my students and I have had to be creative in our approach. For example, allowing students to use their own smart devices as cameras in my media production courses. We experiment with the prosumer cameras and equipment provided by the Department and with their own devices, so that they are ready to go into the field and capture with different grades of equipment. In professional practice we’re seeing more use of smart devices, so developing these skills is valuable both personally and professionally.”
In addition to being an active participant and mentor in the classroom, the department can see his involvement with many aspects of operation and guiding of the curriculum. From 2011-2018, we was the Basic Course Coordinator. In this position, he was responsible for assisting the Basic Course Director with pedagogical aspects of the course and interacting with the graduate students who teach the course. In 2018, Schmeidler transitioned to become the Director of Hiring and Scheduling. In this role he is tasked with finding classrooms that fit the needs of the department and the availability of the professors who teach. He also is on several committees in the department as well as the university where he can help effect change.
When asked why he loves #MasonCOMM, he was effusive. Schmeidler said, “There are so many wonderful opportunities available to students through our department, from studying abroad to student organizations and activities. These are important opportunities to gain experience and strengthen credentials.” He encourages students to get involved with extracurricular opportunities because “the job market is so competitive. Graduates who can share experiences beyond the classroom are showing a greater interest in the field and will have earned advantages during the hiring process.” The advice he has for students is to “Check with the Department for opportunities, and don’t be afraid to ask about creating your own! The Department is very supportive of student engagement.”
Outside of the classroom, he is happily married and has three children (two ‘tweens and a teen) who keep him very busy with all their homework and activities. But he would not have it any other way! Schmeidler is constantly learning from his children and students and thoroughly enjoys working with them to achieve their goals. His advice to graduating students is to “Expand your vision about your career. So many people end up working in fields in which their degree is not in. If you’re a Communication major don’t just limit your search to related firms, you’re needed everywhere. And that’s not just across industries, but everywhere around the world!” He says students should not “be afraid to step out of your comfort zones to work in an unfamiliar industry or location. After all, you didn’t get through college without navigating a once unfamiliar environment and experiencing a little discomfort!”
After two decades at Mason, Schmeidler has seen many changes and is responsible for generating some of his own. His educational foundation in media helped him to build opportunities for himself and his students that he did not expect and his involvement in the greater Mason community has allowed him to see his students flourish. As he moves forward, #MasonCOMM has no doubt Schmeidler will discover new ways to encourage students to achieve their best!
August 25, 2021