Communications prof starts career in TV, finds real reward in teaching

November 7, 2019 | UHCL Staff

Communications prof starts career in TV, finds real reward in teaching

Anna Klyueva began her academic career in studying economics in her native Tajikistan. While in her freshman year there, she was invited to audition for a position on a popular local television show. At the audition, she was “warned” that once she got into the media world, she would never want to turn back. Now an assistant professor of communication at University of Houston-Clear Lake, Klyueva says that her philosophy of teaching has been to keep one foot in the profession and the other in education, so that what she teaches and assigns is always relevant.

“After hosting and producing the TV show, I also worked for a radio station and a newspaper in Central Asia that was working to promote freedom of the press,” she said. “I still completed my economics degree though, but ended up using it only for one internship. It was either chance or destiny.”

After her stint as a journalist, Klyueva worked as a public relations officer for an international relief agency Mercy Corps in Central Asia, then moved to Russia, where she did PR for an airline. “Working for Ural Airlines, I realized that I needed more specialized knowledge to help me see the big picture,” she said. “I needed to understand more about public relations, how to manage communication, evaluate the impact of a company’s efforts, and how to plan effectively. There’s more to communications than the tactical writing of releases and planning of events. I became interested in the integration of communication functions.”

She began to look for graduate programs in public relations in the United States – the birthplace of PR. “One of the programs I found was a fellowship to an American university. I applied and was selected as one of the Edmund S. Muskie Fellows in 2006. I was matched with the University of Oklahoma’s Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication,” she said. “I landed in Oklahoma City, and that was my first time in America.”

After completing her Master of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication in 2008, she was recommended for the doctoral program at OU. “I never planned on any of this,” she said. “As a doctoral student, I started helping with classes, and the first class I taught at OU was a PR writing summer course. It was intense.”
But, she said the students had given her such positive feedback, she became committed to teaching.

“This experience offered me a new perspective,” she said. “I thought teaching might be something I could really enjoy. There’s a certain gratification you get from students getting better and succeeding, and watching them applying the skills and knowledge they’re getting.”

One of the things her students appreciated, Klyueva said, was that she was fresh from the profession. “I still keep one foot in by consulting with companies,” she said. “It’s not enough to tell our students that writing and critical thinking are important. Students tend to be more receptive when outside professionals say that as well. We need to reinforce the value of what we are teaching, and I do that by bringing in guest speakers and opportunities to work with real clients on real projects. We do more than just classwork.”

To continue reinforcing the value of what she’s teaching, Klyueva said that outside organizations, like the Children’s Museum of Houston,, and Pasadena Chamber of Commerce, served as clients of the students in her Public Relations Campaigns class at different times. “Students are communication professionals; this experience helps them with professional socialization,” she said. “Students come out of this feeling they have done something valuable, not just some busy work for a class. They create real campaigns used by real organizations, and the opportunity to experience this relationship is what makes our program different. I make sure my students have these experiences, so they feel that what they have done in my class has actual value.”

Now in her sixth year at UH-Clear Lake, Klyueva’s hands-on philosophy has helped her earn the 2019 Instructional Innovation Award from the Center for Faculty Development for an activity she teaches in her Principles of Public Relations class. “That activity simulates a news conference,” she said. “Students track an organization, and then a crisis happens. They must address the journalists and the public in a media briefing.”

That briefing is the simulation itself. “I invite (UHCL’s student publication) The Signal, and they question students as journalists,” she explained. “They ask very tough questions, and sometimes it gets intense. But it’s a good experience, and the students understand whether they can withstand that pressure, and they learn the importance of preparation.”

Klyueva said the best part of her job as an educator is the gratification she feels when students succeed. “I feel as though I have contributed a little bit, and I like the interaction with my students. I genuinely enjoy them,” she said. “I love PR and love teaching this class because there are a lot of students who go through a ‘conversion.’ The class is open to all majors, and sometimes students who thought they were going to study math or psychology take the class and then seriously consider PR as a profession because they didn’t know it could be so exciting.”

Read more about UHCL’s Communication Program online. 


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