Alumnus Mike Emery, pride and homework

by Scot Wortner
emeryMike Emery likes homework. His life and career have evolved over the years thanks to his commitment to always work, learn and stay busy. He does this by giving himself homework.

Emery, a 1993 mass communications graduate, works full time as the senior media relations representative at the University of Houston but also teaches and writes about the arts for a community blog. Emery still credits his days in San Marcos with where he is today.

“I can probably look back and just say I’m proud of at least the last 20 years,” Emery said. “It’s been a constant evolution. Everything that’s happened to me is a direct result of the experience I had at SWT. I’m proud I learned from there and I was able to take what I learned and apply it to my career.”

Inspiration from Texas State
The Kingsville native enrolled in 1988 at what was then named Southwest Texas State University after being inspired by one of his teachers, Nilda Salinas.

“I knew at the time I wanted to go into broadcasting and Southwest was my first choice,” Emery said. “I had a journalism teacher in high school that went to Southwest, thought real highly of it.”

There he made new connections, including Larry Carlson and the late Jeff Henderson. Carlson helped him in radio and broadcasting and Henderson taught him newspapers.

“I would see him in Old Main all the time,” Carlson said. “Just thinking about him makes me smile. He was living the college life and enjoying it all. He was active throughout the journalism department. Everybody knew him and everybody liked him.”

To this day, Emery now 42, has a stylishly relaxed look with wavy, shoulder-length hair and eyeglasses that turn dark outdoors. His deep voice somehow still carries across his easy demeanor. On the outside he appears care-free, but Carlson always knew better.

“Mike probably might have flown under the radar with some people because they thought he was a laid-back guy,” Carlson said. “But just because you come across as laid back, doesn’t mean you’re not ambitious and driven within yourself and confident. You could see that Mike was going to do well because he’s got a quick mind and he was willing to learn.”

He was driven and earned his bachelor’s degree in ‘93. He already knew what he wanted to do before and after college, but it didn’t feel right.

First Job
“My first job wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be,” Emery said. “It was a copywriter’s job. It was a far cry from what I saw myself doing. It was two years and two years that seemed very long before I found another job that really seemed more rewarding.”

Emery was able to move on by doing the one thing many students are relieved they don’t have to do after graduation. He gave himself homework.

“So while I was doing that copywriting job, I did not like it at all. That’s when I started writing about music and freelancing,” Emery said. “It’s important to always give yourself homework and keep yourself busy and make you better at what you do.”

His homework allowed him to go back to what he enjoyed doing in college, writing about his loves, film and music. While living in Dallas he wrote movie reviews for the Austin Chronicle, as well as music reviews for local publications The Met, Blues Review and Relix.

Fittingly, Emery covered a lot of musicians who were, as he says, “off the beaten path.” He’s met with legends like Isaac Hayes and George Clinton and other Rock and Roll Hall of Famers, but his favorite interview was over the phone with Bill Ward, the drummer of Emery’s favorite band Black Sabbath.

Emery was welcomed aboard a couple of “” era businesses before they sank, but was still able to utilize what he had learned.

“The boom and the bust,” Emery said. “I wasn’t there very long. But that was a good education; it helped me get more in tune with content management technology.”

Back to School
Emery’s hard work and homework landed him back in school. He was hired as a media relations representative for the University of Houston.

Shortly after that, Emery decided he needed more homework and enrolled at the University of Houston Clear Lake (separate institution) to earn his master’s degree.

“Just working in an academic atmosphere, it’s very motivating,” Emery said. “So that was the motivator to go back to school and get my master’s.”

Just before earning his master’s, Emery began teaching part time at UH in addition to his full time PR job. A few years later, he started teaching at UH Downtown and not long after at UH Clear Lake.

At all three, Emery shared the same mantra with his students.

“Just keep doing your homework,” Emery said. “Just because you have a 9-to-5 doesn’t mean you should come home and chill out. Keep yourself busy and try to learn as much as possible.”

Linda Ali, a senior PR major at UH, has heard this many times from her former professor.

“This is his way of saying keep challenging yourself so you don’t grow restless or unchallenged in whatever it is that you do,” Ali said. “It’s like climbing each step of the ladder until you reach the top, whatever the top may be for a person.”

Emery was working all four of these jobs when he pitched an idea to his boss. It tied in his PR work, his love for arts, a connection to the community and more homework.

Going Digital
A new blog was born, “Creative Pride.” Emery said it was created to “showcase how artists here at the university were taking their talents into the community and showcase what students were also doing because sometimes students don’t get as much media attention.”

What started as an in house blog within the university, has spread to the city via the Houston Chronicle.
Shawn Lindsey, director of Media Relations at UH, understands the importance of this undertaking.

“From the performing arts to the visual arts, the Houston arts community is so vibrant, but that means there are constantly new exhibits, shows and artists that have something to offer to arts patrons,” Lindsey said. “‘Creative Pride’ is an incredible way to reach an audience that may not otherwise know about all of the impressive arts endeavors taking place here at the university.”

Every hard worker deserves a perk.

“Because of that blog I did get to go to France last year to cover the UH choir,” Emery said. “And a few years before that I went to Wales to cover the choir when they went to participate in these international trips.”
So, he’s not doing exactly what he thought he would after graduation but he’s fine with that.

“Everything was evolved really, one thing led to another,” Emery said. “Twenty years ago I thought I’d be writing music articles, so I guess in a sense I am, but I’m writing about classical music these days and not rock music. But I’m not complaining.”

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