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Communication studies professors recommend balancing work and freetime

April 14, 2019

This month’s noteworthy staff members are Amber Pineda and Melissa Schnettler.  

Amber Pineda is a recent addition to the UW-River Falls staff. She joined in August of 2018 as an associate lecturer for the Marketing Communications department. Pineda teaches writing for mass media, advertising and a digital press release class, as well as a class on persuasion.

Outside of school, Pineda contracts for an organization called EntryPoint, which works to promote entrepreneurship across the Midwest. Pineda tracks trends in investment and diversity among the entrepreneurial communities, to help support the growth of new companies. “Through EntryPoint, we identify problems that exist in these industries, an we create a solution,” Pineda elaborated. “It’s really technical.”

Amber Pineda (Kacey Joslin / Student Voice)
Amber Pineda (Kacey Joslin / Student Voice)

For instance, Pineda and her research team have found that when it comes to high-tech businesses, a lot of companies from the Midwest move to the coast, because they feel more resources will be available to them there. “By knowing that, we realize in order to make it more attractive for businesses to stay here, we need to make sure we are having enough resources here to support their growth.”

“I love working with entrepreneurs,” Pineda said. “I love to watch a business grow from the ground up. It’s really exciting to hear their stories. Often, they are very innovative and creative.”

According to Pineda, the Midwest has a younger entrepreneur community, much like Silicon Valley. “I find it fulfilling to be apart of that group and see more start-ups emerging in the Midwest. And, of course,” she added. “The blog aspect. Basically what I do, with the research reports and trends, I help to tell the story of what this data means. I get to work with reporters in terms of sharing these growth and trends, do blog posts and do Q & A’s. It’s really cool connecting with entrepreneurs.”

Her career as a marketing communications professional “definitely” intersects with her hobby.

“It all goes hand-in-hand. I do media relations for EntryPoint and part of my role, too, is social media. It’s interesting, because I can share what I’m currently doing and share those skills with students.”

As a Millennial, Pineda finds her younger, fresher perspective a huge advantage when connecting with students as well as working with EntryPoint. “Being younger, you’re more open to new ideas. I feel like I’m constantly learning. I’m learning as a teacher, I’m learning as a marketing comms professional. From a teaching perspective, it definitely helps to be more relatable, because it wasn’t that long ago I was in my student’s shoes.”

Pineda elaborated, “A lot of social media channels were just emerging when I was in high school, so it’s unique in the sense I remember what it’s like not having these technologies. But I also remember seeing, for instance, Facebook becoming the company it is today.”

“Snapchat wasn’t around when I was younger,” Pineda continued. “But it’s hugely popular among our student body as well as Gen Z. I tend to use Facebook and Instagram, because I find that to be user-friendly, but Snapchat kind of has its own code. It’s interesting how different generations use things differently.”

Pineda was adamant with the fact that teachers should keep an eye on these trends. “When I first started teaching, I had the philosophy of ‘no tech in the classroom! Turn your cell phones off!’ It was very harsh,” she admitted. “One of the things I’ve been trying to do this year is instead of fighting against it, embrace it. It’s a way to get students engaged in content. In class, I try to have activities where we’re actually utilizing the apps, using social media for online discussions and figuring out how the platform works. I think embracing that technology can definitely help the classroom, especially in terms of communication. Teachers need to stay on top of those trends.”

Pineda does have “more, actually fun hobbies,” outside of EntryPoint. “I’ve started doing yoga, because I’m sitting at a desk all day when I’m not teaching. It helps to kind of be more patient, and also to strive to have some kind of balance. I also love to read in my spare time. I’m an avid reader. I feel like that’s usually what I do to decompress.”

Pineda continues. “I love fiction, but I also like to read non-fiction as well. I read books on social media and I’m looking forward to reading this book on influence and influencers, just because with technology, the marketing and communications field is constantly changing. Reading these books helps me keep track of trends in the industry, and really helps to make sure that I’m able to incorporate that into the classroom as well.”

She believes that it’s especially important for students to have something for themselves outside of academia and jobs. “It’s important to have something that helps them to refocus, re-center and take that time for themselves.”

Pineda will be taking the position of an assistant professor next year. “I’m excited to continue working at UWRF, I love working with students, I think that’s the biggest thing that really gravitated me toward this role is being able to share what I’ve learned with students.”

The strive for balance is a common theme among faculty, attempting to balance their personal lives with their professional lives. Associate lecturer, Melissa Schnettler, found this to be especially true.

“Freetime?!” Schnettler laughed, when asked about her hobbies.“It’s funny, I was talking with some co-workers about how I have no hobbies. That’s like the running joke between us. I don’t know what my hobbies are, to be honest.”

Melissa Schnettler (Kacey Joslin / Student Voice)
Melissa Schnettler (Kacey Joslin / Student Voice)

Schnettler is a wife, and the mother of an almost 2-year-old son. “I would say ‘freetime’ is usually spent with them. When I go home, I don’t have freetime. You know? You leave here, you go home, you get dinner, put your son to bed and you’re usually too tired to do anything — which isn’t always a bad thing,” she assured.

The weekends, Schnettler said, are for family adventures. “When you have a child, you do things that you wouldn’t do before. You go to the zoo. I wouldn’t go to the zoo with just my husband. You do these adventures, and you see them through somebody else’s eyes, which I feel is the fun part about it,” she said. “You have new experiences, but there’s no way my husband and I would’ve gone and done that if we didn’t have [my son].”

“You keep very busy doing things,” Schnettler continued. “You keep very active. Before we had our son, I joke with my husband, ‘What did we used to do on a Saturday?’ Probably laid around, watched some TV.” To de-stress, Schnettler admitted to a guilty pleasure.

“Sometimes it’s all just exhausting. I have to juggle a lot, so as for the freetime question . . .  what do I do? I know it’s taboo, but I go out to eat by myself. Sometimes it’s kind of awkward, but I just go to Caribou, and watch Netflix, something where you don’t have to think. I’m sure a lot of students do, too. I’ve been watching ‘The Office,’ for like the fourth time now. It’s my go-to show. Usually once a week, I’ll go out and do something by myself, and it’s just nice.”

She compared it to a balancing act. “Students balance a lot, too. You’re trying to balance work, friends, family — and then when you become a parent, you’re balancing family. But you only have so many hours in a day.”

Students don’t often approach her for advice, but she knows, in general, that students have a lot that they’re balancing. “The best advice I’d give is to be purposeful. It’s really easy to sink into a time-wasting mindset. You can’t spend half the day watching Netflix. There’s been times where I fall into the same trap.”

Schnettler admits that it’s a difficult skill to learn. “A lot of us probably feel we have trouble balancing everything. I don’t know if that ever goes away. One thing becomes balanced, another becomes unbalanced. Usually one thing is always missing. I wish I could work out more, but I don’t. I’m tired by the end of the night. Something’s always got to give, it feels like. But it’s all about being smart with your time and more efficient.”

Ultimately, Schnettler advised that students and faculty both remember that they’re not alone in their struggles. “Everybody has to balance different things. When I was in college, it was balancing tutoring, tennis, academics and friends and family. Now, it’s balancing work, family, friends. Everybody is always balancing something,” she said. “I remember as a student not recognizing that teachers do that too. There’s that disconnect. As a student, you sometimes forget that everybody’s balancing something, it just looks different.”

Schnettler tends to be an informal instructor, and she hopes that her students find her easy to relate to. She encourages open communication between students and teachers. She understands that there can be a grey area when it comes to balancing school and personal life.

“Life happens. If life happens, you have to communicate that with me. If life gets in the way, and you’re having trouble with that balance, connect with me. We have policies, but if stuff happens, talk with me. As a teacher, you’re trying to find that balance between upholding the policies but also recognizing that life happens. Because life happens to me, too.”

“A lot of people are stressed and get overwhelmed, but you have to be healthy and take care of yourself in order to excel at school, keep friendships, to work,” Schnettler concluded. “When you think about it, you only have twenty-four hours in a day to do what you want to do. You have to figure out what you need to do and what’s important to you.”

With a 21:1 student to faculty ratio at UW-River Falls, it’s beneficial for students to learn that their professors aren’t always as intimidating as they may appear. In an attempt to make staff more approachable to students, as well as a place for staff to show off their accomplishments, The Student Voice is proud to showcase UW-River Falls staff and faculty members with interesting hobbies or pastimes.

If you’re interested in having your interesting hobbies showcased, contact reporter Kacey Joslin at kassaundra.joslin@my.uwrf.edu.