A meeting with Maribeth Metzler defies all the false stereotypes of academics as people focused on only their narrow research interests.
A meeting with Maribeth Metzler defies all the false stereotypes of academics as people focused on only their narrow research interests. The education and work backgrounds of the director of the Communication Public Relations Program are about as diverse as you can imagine.
Metzler earned her BA in literature and her MS in environmental science at Miami University. In 1996, she received a PhD in communication and rhetoric from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. A native of Hamilton, Ohio, she attributes her diverse interests to “always being free to explore new things. I guess I suffer from curiosity; I hate to be bored. I’ve read a lot since I was young, and a liberal arts education gave me the opportunity to continue exploring for the rest of my life.”
Her work experience is just as varied. “I’ve always thought that choosing one career means you’ve grown up, and I’ve never entirely wanted to do that,” she jokingly describes it. How many others in one lifetime have held jobs as technical writer, paralegal, environmental public relations specialist, hazardous waste site safety officer and trainer, and environmental consultant?
This is not to overlook the years she spent teaching at Rutgers, SUNY Oswego, and Miami University before coming to UC in the fall of 2003. She saw the move as “Absolutely the best career choice I could make. I’ve known some of the communication faculty and their work for years. The opportunity to be around truly outstanding scholars is something I think most scholars hope for because it’s the right atmosphere to be productive in. And the opportunity to build the public relations program from the solid foundation that existed into one we hope will eventually be recognized at the national level is a challenge I really wanted at this point in my career.”
She believes her varied experience in the “outside world” contributes to both her teaching and her research. “Students relate very well to actual work experience. When I can tell them about things that actually happened at the law firm or GE, it makes the theories and principles we discuss in public relations or organizational communication more concrete. And of course in my research, I draw on the whole of my experience to examine the various situations I study.”
Metzler’s research interests reflect her practical background: environmental and risk communication, the social implications of organizations, and communication ethics. Having published in several journals and books, she’s currently at work on a book about communication in the United States nuclear weapons production complex. Her co-authors are colleagues Steve Depoe, Bill Kinsella, and Brian Taylor.
For now, however, her most daunting task may be the role of director of the department’s growing public relations program. “In each of my previous academic positions, the PR program was in place when I arrived. I just stepped in and moved the programs forward. Here, I need to build. We have to establish some new courses to meet the requirements for the Public Relations Student Society of America chapter. I’ll be the advisor for the chapter and work closely with the students to build it into one that benefits them both academically and professionally. My previous professional experience and my participation in the Cincinnati chapter of the Public Relations Society of America provide me with important connections in the Cincinnati professional community that I hope will enhance these efforts. It’s a lot of work, but as I said, I don’t like to be bored.”
As varied as her professional life has been, Metzler’s outside interests are even more diverse. “On Saturday evenings between September and May, you’ll find me in Music Hall listening to the Cincinnati Symphony. I have a seat in the gallery that I wouldn’t trade for anything; the acoustics are best up there. Then on Sunday afternoons, you’ll find me in front of the TV or sometimes at a track watching NASCAR races. Diversity makes life much more interesting.”
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