Editor's Note: This profile is the full version of the story that appeared in the April 23rd edition of The Oracle.
Communication professor Dr. Colleen Mestayer has had three careers over her lifetime. She offers advice to college students and young adults starting their adult lives.
When you first went to college to receive your bachelor’s degree, what was your original plan?
“When I went to LSU, I was 17 when I went college, and I wanted to be an architect. … That’s one of my little passions. Since I’d been five years old, I’d been drawing house plans. … And then I realized how many maths and sciences I would need. And of course because of my upbringing and all that, five brothers, I just didn’t feel strong enough. This is sad, but I looked for a degree that did not require math. But had a little creativity to it because I also drew a lot. I had done art for years. So I graduated in advertising. Got out of school and said, ‘What do I do with this?’ Which is crazy. So I immediately went and got my master’s in communication studies with a focus on interpersonal communication.”
How did you end up at Tennessee Tech?
“I wanted to get a doctorate, so I could teach at a college level only. What I didn’t realize is that I didn’t really need the doctorate. I also thought that after I got the doctorate I could just get a job anywhere. Oh, what a joke. It’s hard. So after I graduated, I interviewed at lots of interviews. Did not get many offers. … When Tech called me, I had already accepted another job. I was going back to teach middle school, and they called and asked me if I would like to interview. So I went into the middle school and I said, ‘oh, I’m so sorry’ and she goes, ‘don’t even say it, I just had a woman come in here and beg me for a job, I can’t give her one unless you quit’ and I said ‘OK, I’m quitting.’ I hadn’t even started, and I hadn’t gotten this job. My daughter was like ‘Mom, what are you doing’ and I said ‘It doesn’t feel right. So if Tech doesn’t work, it’s gonna be OK.’ Lo and behold, Tech worked. And I feel like it’s a good fit.”
How was it going from teaching middle schoolers to college students?
“I’m telling you, they are identical. They are. High school was hard. I did not do well in high school. … That was not my thing. Middle school, they are curious, they’re extremely loyal, they want to please me, and they’re not so worried about what people think about them. That’s exactly what college students have.”
What is one thing you teach your communication students that you think every student on this campus should know?
“That even if we have a different opinion, everybody’s opinion matters. Make sure you know why you hold that opinion. … Don’t judge, listen. Listen. … Until we understand where we’re coming from, we’re gonna judge others. And what good does that do? We’re all here in one place. Why hate?”
Is there any advice you would give young women entering the workforce?
“Don’t take as long as I did to discover your gifts.”