One part mentor. One part career counselor. One part I-want-to-be-like-her-someday inspiration.
Professor Sharon Shavitt was all of that — and then some — to Michelle (Zasi) Amazeen.
Their relationship goes back to 1987, when Amazeen was working toward the first of two advertising degrees she’d receive from the UI and Shavitt was a few years removed from earning her Ph.D. from Ohio State.
Amazeen — now herself a professor, at Boston University — picks it up from here.
“After taking a research class with her, I became one of her research assistants, learning how to code and analyze data. With the economic recession of the early ’90s, job prospects were bleak as I graduated with my BS in advertising. So I decided to continue my education at UIUC, pursuing an MS in advertising under the supervision of Dr. Shavitt.
“I admired how smart she was, as well as her ability to connect research with practical applications. She inspired me to undertake a master’s thesis on the effects of advertising on attitudes, which became a springboard into my research career.
“As graduation approached, Dr. Shavitt invited me to lunch, and we talked about my future plans.
‘Do you think you’ll pursue a Ph.D.?’ she asked me.
‘Oh, I don’t think so,’ I responded.
“I was too burned out on school at that point and wanted to get a job.
“We stayed in touch over time, and roughly 15 years later, I emailed Sharon with a request: ‘Would you mind writing a letter of recommendation for me? I’d like to pursue a Ph.D.’
"Her response: ‘I always knew you were going to!’
“Fast-forward another dozen years and I am now an assistant professor at Boston University. I continue to research the effects of advertising and media more broadly on attitudes and behaviors. I enjoy challenging myself and my own students to critically evaluate our media environment. I love what I do and hope to inspire my students the same way Sharon inspired me.”
Amazeen didn’t have to search far at the UI to find inspiring women in powerful positions. Another: WPGU’s “amazing female station manager, Terry Dugan-Nolan.”
“I began working at the station midway through my sophomore year and continued into graduate school. I was on the sales staff, but also had a hand in developing some of the promotions and was an occasional voice talent for in-house produced ads.
“I learned the importance of Arbitron ratings and understanding data about target audiences — experiences that would inform my future efforts studying media. We worked hard and delighted in the music.
“A bittersweet memory was taking a road trip in the WPGU minivan with several of my station colleagues to Alpine Valley Music Theater in Wisconsin to hear an amazing trifecta of rock-n-roll: Stevie Ray Vaughn, Robert Cray and Eric Clapton.
"It was Vaughn’s last concert in his too-short life as the helicopter he rode in leaving the concert crashed, killing all aboard.”