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Dr. Juan-Carlos Molleda

Professor

UF Department of Public Relations

2014-2015 UF Doctoral Mentoring Award Winner

I am of the opinion that doctoral students must take control over their academic career right from cradle to grave. For this reason, I have always believed that my responsibilities as a doctoral advisor go much beyond just mentoring the student towards choosing the most suitable academic and research path. I take a deep interest in background, strengths, fears, uncertainties, and aspirations of my current and former doctoral students. I share relevant anecdotes and examples from my academic experiences and professional career that might act as guiding lessons to them. The goal is to help them carefully weigh their options in order that they make the right decisions and to inspire them to assume the challenges and opportunities ahead with enthusiasm and dedication.

The mentoring techniques employed by my master’s thesis advisor at Radford University and my dissertation advisors at University of South Carolina have postulated my mentoring style. I was fortunate to have such illustrious scholars and effective teachers as my advisors, and mentors, whom continue to be my mentors to this day. I have introduced my doctoral students to them at national and international conferences. My students are now quite aware of the professional relationship I have with my mentors and the strong influence they have had on both my career and my life. I am grateful to them for the fact that I am now a citizen of the United States where I have an accomplished national and international academic and research career.

My mentoring style has evolved significantly during my tenure of 14 years here at the University of Florida. I began to take doctoral students right from the first semester of my career at this university. As of fall 2014, I have chaired or been a member of 23 doctoral committees. In particular, I have successfully completed the chairing of 10 dissertation committees (seven in the last five years). These Ph.D. graduates now hold faculty positions at Bilkent University (Ankara, Turkey), DePaul University, Elon University, North Carolina State University, Quinnipiac University, UNICEF, University of Miami, and University of Buea (Cameroon). My last student to graduate with a Ph.D. is now a research director for both APCO Worldwide (global public affairs firm) and the Institute for Public Relations (foundation). Currently, I am working closely with four doctoral students who are at various levels in their academic program. This is evidence of my effectiveness as a doctoral advisor.

I am an active advocate of the culture we have established in the UF College of Journalism and Communications. We expect Ph.D. students to progressively engage in research, teaching, and service during their doctoral program. This approach gives our graduate students a competitive advantage in the job market. In fact, my colleagues from peer institutions always asked me for names and status of our Ph.D. students. Our graduating students are well-prepared to face the tough competitiveness of the job market and the increasing difficulties in having successful publications. During guest lectures in our doctoral communication colloquium and mass communication perspective course, I explain to Ph.D. students the need to engage in collaborative research projects with peers and other faculty members. My doctoral students are also my co-authors in several of my conference papers, book chapters, and articles in reputed journals.

Advising doctoral students reaches a critical point during qualifying examinations and dissertation work. I ease the tension in the final stages of their studies by making myself available to them always and by walking them through the process along the way. If needed, I also help graduate students gain access to organizations for their data collection in order that they complete their dissertation exemplary marks. I make the issues and obstacles they see as big and insurmountable as achievable and feasible. It gives me immense pleasure when I see an expression of relief in their faces. The 1:1 partnership relieves their fears and frustrations, allowing doctoral students to realize that there are solutions to every challenge of the last stage of doctoral work. I know that it is a stressful time for doctoral students because in addition to examinations and dissertation, they are actively looking for employment opportunities in a competitive job market. I also advise them in job hunting strategies, including the application process; on-campus visits; research and teaching demonstrations; interviewing techniques; and negotiation of salary, benefits, and responsibilities.

I believe I am in the most productive stage of my career as a scholar and teacher. I permanently involve my current and former doctoral students in my research projects and national and international academic and professional activities. They always say that when they graduate they would like to emulate me. This has even become a reality for my former students, who have now earned recognition as excellent researchers and teachers. They have extended my research agenda. In a short-time period some have managed to make their own contribution to the repository of knowledge of public relations and communication management and other specializations of mass and strategic communications.

I am committed to graduate education. I have ambitious plans for current and future doctoral students that I am recruiting actively. I feel fortunate to be a member of an academic unit that has been one of the leaders in graduate mass communication education in the United States and perhaps the world. The demand for Ph.D. graduates in mass communication with a specialization in public relations and communication management has been on the rise in the last decade. Therefore, I act as a liaison between the talented students in our program and the job market. This unique situation completes the rewarding cycle of mentoring and advising doctoral students. However, this cycle does not end with the first job for my students. I keep receiving calls from previous students for advice regarding career moves, promotions, and changes. This is evidence of my strong commitment in building long-term professional relationships with my doctoral students and colleagues.