Daily 49er

CSULB media director moves to CSU Chancellor’s office

Q & A with Mike Uhlenkamp

Valerie Osier, News Editor

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Michael Uhlenkamp has represented Cal State Long Beach hundreds of times with the press during his two-year stint as the Executive Director of Media and Digital News at CSULB. He is now leaving CSULB to represent the California State University system as the Interim Senior Director of Public Affairs at the Chancellor’s office in Long Beach.

How did you get started at CSULB?

“I was approached by the assistant vice president for legislative and external relations, Terri Carbaugh. We had worked on some projects together in her previous role when I was at the Chancellor’s Office and I became aware of the opportunity at Long Beach. Having received my Master of Business Administration from the campus, I had great feelings about the campus, so when I became aware of the opportunity, we engaged and I was lucky enough to be chosen as the best candidate for that position, and I loved my 23 months there.”

How did you get into public relations?

“Originally, I wanted to work in sports, I went to USC as an undergrad, so I started as an intern in the sports information department which led to other opportunities in public relations for sports … My first full-time job was as a PR assistant for the [Los Angeles] Lakers … I like to write, I like to talk to people, build relationships. That’s all applicable to PR, so I stayed in the field and then, lo and behold, I ended up in higher education. And so I’ve been in higher ed for the last seven years.”

What’s your biggest accomplishment at CSULB?

“During my time there, we revamped the ‘CSULB newsroom’ [a public relations website] … It’s a really robust site for both media and for people that are interested with what’s going on in the campus. We had roughly 100k unique visitors in the 11 months after we had launched, so that’s one of the things that I’m most proud of. And also, to be able to foster a culture of communication on campus. Like any campus, there’s a lot of things that are going on at any given time. There’s good things, there’s bad things. To keep people who are interested, informed is something that I’m proud of. Just being a part of the campus community, I already miss it right now.”

What is your new position and what will you be doing at the Chancellor’s Office?

“I’m now heading up the Public Affairs department, so my official title is Interim Senior Director of Public Affairs. We serve as the media relations contacts for both the local, state and national level. We also serve as the liaison for all of the campuses, whereas my role at Long Beach was to really focus on Long Beach. Now, it’s to help the campuses to be able to share their stories and put those stories together.”

You worked at the Chancellor’s office before coming to CSULB, what made you leave and what is bringing you back?

“I wanted to spend time on a campus, first and foremost, and while there are a bunch of great campuses throughout the CSU, I do live in Long Beach, but I also had a great affinity for Cal State Long Beach. I knew that there was a lot of interesting and exciting things going on, so to be able to tell those stories was a really exciting experience for me. It was also to be part of the community … It’s a vibrant, vibrant community. And to be able to be an even closer part of that was something that was really exciting and that I will absolutely miss. In terms of wanting to leave, it was simply the fact that I had a familiarity with the Chancellor’s Office.n. There’s a lot of really exciting things that are going on with respect to public higher education and to be able to serve as an advocate and to help achieve some of those goals is something exciting to me.”

What do you hope to accomplish at the Chancellor’s Office?

“I want to be able to be an advocate for the system. We have a lot of interesting things going on, I think there has been a change in the last couple of years to highlight the research that’s been going on. Research typically was the purview of the University of California system, but one thing I learned at CSULB is there’s so much undergraduate research. There are so many brilliant minds that are on the campuses that are really doing the work. They’re making discoveries that we need to be sharing. To be able to do that at a statewide level is really exciting. We still have funding issues that we’ve had for decades now, so to be able to help to potentially make sure that higher education remains affordable and that it’s accessible. ”

What will you miss the most about working here?

“I love the campus and the vibrancy of being on campus. One of the things we do at the Chancellor’s office: we do policy, at the campus we see it actually happen … You get to see all the changes, whether it’s a new building coming in or programs starting, the number of students graduating, or just being exposed to what you’re trying to accomplish in the mission of helping students get a great degree that’s going to change their lives. You see that every single day. Commencement is the most amazing thing, so I will miss all that as well. I’ll also miss the coffee shops.”

What advice do you have for graduating students about going into their field?

“I think it’s important that you are able to do something that you believe in. Working in higher education, I believed in the mission. Advocate for different products, you are trying to get a consumer to make a purchase and you don’t necessarily believe in the brand 1000 % With the job i have now, I completely believe in the work I am doing. If you’re able to do that, I think you’ll be able to have a fulfilling career. Also, get an internship, make connections, work your butt off.

What are some of your favorite CSULB moments while you worked here?

“To be able to help the students there was something that was really rewarding. I will miss that level of relationship but I’ll still be here at the Chancellor’s office on some level as well.”

What advice do you have for graduating students going into their field?

“I think it’s important that you are able to do something that you believe in. And so I think one of the benefits of working in public higher education, whether it’s been at the Chancellor’s office or at CSULB, is that I believed in the mission … and it’s fulfilling to be able to say that.”


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