SSRC Spotlight: Laura R. Walton
The Media Collaboration Laboratory (MCL) of the SSRC will celebrate its third anniversary in June. The MCL Coordinator, Dr. Laura Richardson Walton, APR, is excited about the future of the laboratory and looking forward to expanding the MCL’s capabilities.
“I’d like to shift the focus of the MCL to more web-based initiatives and social media and, of course, to continue to create award winning work,” Walton said with a smile.
In the past three years, the MCL has produced many memorable projects. The most memorable for Walton include the 2010 and 2011 annual reports, the “Inquiry leads to Impact” brochure highlighting the productivity of the Center, the development of the new, updated logo and the revamping of the SSRC website.
An Arkansas Tech graduate who admitted that social media wasn’t “even a blip on the radar” during her undergraduate studies, Walton appreciates the joint appointment between the SSRC and the Department of Communication. While she enjoys teaching future practitioners about the field of public relations, she had grown to miss the challenges of being a practitioner. The creation of the MCL within the SSRC in 2009 provided the avenue to stay “in the know” about new practices in PR.
“It’s really the best of both worlds. When I was in school, I didn’t think I’d have this exact position, but I knew that I’d be working with college students,” Walton said. She began her career in higher education on the student services side of campus working with recruitment and retention. She credits her mentor, Dr. Larry Robinson (now the provost at Seton Hall University), for encouraging her to pursue her doctorate and eventually a tenure-track appointment.
In a “typical” week, Walton spends three days of the week at the SSRC and two teaching in McComas Hall.
As the coordinator of the MCL, a research fellow at the SSRC and assistant professor in her academic department, balancing her career with her roles as a wife and mother can be quite a juggling act. Walton and her husband, Jeff, have two sons – Riley, 5, and Eli, 2, – both of whom she describes as “110% boy.”
“I try not to bring work home, so when the boys are awake, I’m ‘mom’ and then maybe try to do a bit of work after they’re asleep. I also try really hard not to work on weekends and to just enjoy the time with them,” Walton said.
After her boys are in bed for the night, she often uses the quiet time to run. Walton started running shortly after Eli was born as a means to lose the baby weight, but she admits that the activity has become a bit of an addiction.
“There are literally days when I feel I have to run. I try to run 12-15 miles a week and more when I’m training…Running is often the only time I have myself; I use it to decompress. I know that probably sounds weird to people that don’t run,” Walton said with a laugh.
Walton will be attending the Southern States Communication Association annual conference in San Antonio this month to present her research on the public relations internship experience, which was awarded top paper in SSCA’s PR division and is based on the experiences of MCL interns.April 2, 2012