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Connections made at Miami University hold up years later

College can be an extremely influential time in life, and it’s often the place where people make connections that can last a lifetime.

Joe Sampson, a senior clinical lecturer of journalism, graduated from Miami in 1994 with a bachelor's degree in mass communication and a minor in political science. During his undergraduate years, he took several classes at Williams Hall, where he now teaches journalism classes.

“I think what makes my situation a little bit unique is … I'm in the same building,” Sampson said. “I can sort of sometimes crack jokes like, ‘Oh, you never left.’”

Before Sampson taught at Miami, though, he worked in television news in Cincinnati and Dayton for nearly 15 years. He had been graduated for eight years when, in the summer of 2001, he received a phone call from a Miami professor he’d kept in touch with. He was asked if he would step in to teach a television reporting class because the current professor had gotten into a severe car accident.

Sampson said he was flattered that the school thought of him as a suitable stand-in, and he agreed to teach, thinking it would be a good experience and a one-time thing. Although it had been a while since he had been on campus, Samspon said it felt the same as when he was a student.

“The campus [was] still the same size and it helped that a few professors who I had as a student [were] still here,” Sampson said.

He enjoyed teaching the class but said it was challenging, since he had no formal training and was balancing two jobs.

“I didn't quit my TV news job … [Miami wasn’t] going to pay me enough just to do this one class for four months,” Sampson said.

Six months after that class ended, Sampson received another call asking if he wanted to return to teach again. He was hired as an adjunct, or part-time professor, and again balanced his Miami job with his television news job for nearly five years. He was eventually offered the opportunity to teach full-time under one condition: He had to go to graduate school.

“I had been thinking about graduate school, and that gave me the push to do that,” Sampson said.

Sampson graduated from Xavier University in 2005 with a master's in humanities and joined Miami’s faculty full-time soon after. He described his experience teaching at Miami as “kind of full circle.”

“If I can spend 15 weeks with students, showing them what journalism is … and why that's important … then that connects me to what I did when I was a student here,” Sampson said.

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Similar to his own experience, Sampson keeps in touch with many of his former students, such as Patrick Geshan, a 2023 Miami alumni who majored in journalism and political science. Geshan took a reporting and writing class and a sports reporting class with Sampson.

Even though he only spent two semesters with the professor, their time together profoundly affected Geshan. He said Sampson prepared him well for his career and was a great professor.

“Our work [in class] really emulated what the real industry was like,” Geshan said.

During school, Geshan and Sampson bonded over sports, which aligned with Geshan’s plans for his future.

Sampson reached out to Geshan after he read an article about the former student’s employment as a Dayton Dragons play-by-play broadcaster during his senior year. Geshan said Sampson continues to check in on him, making him feel supported.

“I'm just very appreciative that he still cares and still wants to check in and see how I'm doing,” Geshan said.

Sampson said he enjoys keeping in touch with former students, calling it one of the “great benefits” of his job.

“That's one of the joys of teaching: seeing them graduate, grow personally [and] professionally,” Sampson said.

Photo by Taylor Powers | The Miami Student
For Sampson, the long-lasting connections he builds with students is one of the highlights of being a professor.

He keeps photos of previous students on the windowsill of his office and a group photo of former students hangs on his bulletin board, signed by each student.

John Keegan, a botany professor who started working at Miami in 1977, has also kept in contact with many former students through the years.

“I have a number of students who, in fact, are now winemakers at various places in the industry, and I stay in touch with them,” Keegan said.

Keegan said he has similar thoughts to Sampson on what it's like to stay connected with students long after they’ve left the classroom.

“It's wonderful to see how those people grow and turn out and the things they get into,” Keegan said.