Jon Boroshok

College Instructor, PR/Marketing Comm. Specialist, and Journalist

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Transgressions, Confessions, and Microaggressions

This post originally appeared in the August 2019 edition of AAC&U News.


AAC&U News, August 2019

Transgressions, Confessions, and Microaggressions: Impressions of the AAC&U 2019 Diversity, Equity, and Student Success Conference


By Jon Boroshok, Communication Instructor at Southern New Hampshire University 


Since we both have advanced degrees and invested in college savings plans, my wife and I always assumed our children would receive a higher education. As a professor, I realize how fortunate or, yes, privileged we’ve been.

I teach a “Rock and Roll Edition” of Visual Communication and Media Literacy on campus at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). One of our topics looks at suburban parents’ reactions to rock music in the 1950s compared to parents’ reactions to rap and hip-hop today. While it’s not quite Drake vs. Elvis, we see similar misunderstandings, fears, and prejudices. It’s a great discussion topic full of teachable moments and even more opportunities for me to get into trouble.

Maybe I’m one of today’s parents. The elephant in the room isn’t just my “Dad Bod,” it’s my demographic. As a white, fifty-something male, I don’t check many diversity boxes, but I want to be sensitive to topics that do. While discussing soul, I’d like to keep the sole of my shoe out of my mouth.

As a starting point for learning more about how to discuss race and inequalities in the classroom, I enrolled in the White Ally Tool Kit course at SNHU.

DESS 2019.1.jpg
Photo: Participants at AAC&U’s 2019 Diversity, Equity, and Student Success Conference.

Next, thanks to a grant from our President’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion (PODI), I attended AAC&U’s Diversity, Equity, and Student Success Conference in Pittsburgh in March 2019. From the many great sessions, I learned valuable lessons to bring back to SNHU.

Just like our students, faculty need to get out of their comfort zones. The first thing I noticed at the conference was how few people looked like me. Is this what every day feels like for some of my students? At least it was by choice for me. I could always walk away.

SNHU does many of the right things already, including following a formal diversity, equity, and inclusion plan. Much of the conference focused on creating inclusive campuses, and I realized that our problem isn’t serving our diverse student population—it’s getting professors (like me) to recognize the diversity in front of us.

There are many faces of diversity. One panel session at the conference, “Fostering a Culture of Student Success Grounded in Equity and Identity Consciousness,” taught us that diversity does not only include people of color or LGBTQ+ identities. There are also ethnic and economic differences as well as challenges faced by first-year students. There are mental health issues, veterans, and food-insecure students. We’re more diverse than I understood.

Look at all of a student’s identities, not just one demographic. Schools and their faculty need to be “identity conscious.” Jason Rivera, chancellor for student academic success at Rutgers University, implored us to know campus metrics such as the percentage of our students that are Pell Grant eligible. Have SNHU’s demographics changed in recent years while my assumptions and practices have not?

I have microaggressed. It wasn’t intentional—it was a combination of ignorance and insensitivity. In “Examining Microaggressions for Engaged Inclusivity,” conducted by Claudia Leiras and Alisha Davis (both of Grand Valley State University), I heard stories of how stereotyping and generalizing can influence interaction between faculty and students. I wondered how many offenses I committed. I’ve certainly made comments that have “othered” people.

People are oppressed and stressed by assumptions, impacting how they perform academically and how they engage socially. SNHU’s data shows us how students who are more involved on campus are happier, perform better, and learn more. But if they don’t feel welcomed and safe, how can we expect them to get involved? We need to be proactive and inclusive.

I need to use more gender-neutral, inclusive language in class. As a communications professional, changing messages should come naturally. I added my preferred personal pronouns to my email signature and syllabi. It wasn’t about me—it was to send a subtle message of acceptance to my students. I’ve always made my students sign the last page of the syllabus. Now that page also asks them what their preferred name is, and that’s what I call them and use on the sign-in sheet. It’s a matter of showing respect for our differences. I’m going to make mistakes—I still struggle grammatically with the singular “they” and using norms and defaults like heterosexuality and middle class. I tell my students that I’m a work in progress and that they should feel free to correct me or call me out (my family already does). They appreciate that.

Another aspect of diversity is welcoming all opinions and fostering civil discourse.One casualty of our newfound sensitivity and awareness is that some less-progressive opinions seem to be stifled rather than discussed. As Alisha Davis of Grand Valley State University explained, “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.” There’s a risk of some people feeling censored. That may lead to backlash against diversity and proliferation of a bigoted narrative in the media and online. All opinions must be heard if they are expressed civilly.

Diversity must extend to all levels of the institution. Bonding with a few colleagues in the evenings after the sessions, I learned of their own diversity struggles as faculty and staff members, including feeling like a token faculty member or not being fully supported by colleagues.

Creating inclusivity, diversity, and equity is challenging. It’s not going to happen overnight. It might not even happen during my career. I don’t have the solution, but I’m determined to not be part of the problem.

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What Are Your Top 12 “Go To” Albums/CDs?

Just because it’s a Sunday night, I’m not in the mood to grade any more papers, and there’s nothing good on TV. A while back, someone issued one of those Facebook challenges, daring friends to come up with a list of 12 albums/CDs (not singles) that have stayed with you for a long time. There really weren’t any rules – I suppose you could have more than one CD by the same artist, and you could always cop out with a “greatest hits.”

As the reigning “Name That Tune” champion at work, I find such deep philosophical discussions irresistible, so I thought I’d try it out on my blog. Yes, it’s just an excuse for a quick easy post. This is not my list of greatest albums of all time — that might look somewhat different, and I know some things are sorely missing — like a whole bunch of great 80s pop/rock/alternative like U2‘s “Joshua Tree” and lot of singles from band’s like The Ramones and REM. I only got to pick 12, so I went back further to see what stood a longer test of time. I’m shocked I left The Ramones off since to this day  I can’t sit still when I hear them, but there never was a Ramones album that I played over and over and over.

In no particular order:

bostonBoston- Boston:
The debut album that got me off a steady diet of folk and California rock. Bought it as vinyl in 1975, and played it more than enough to replace it with the first CD I ever bought. Still love it. RIP Brad Delp.

Bruce Springsteen – Darkness on the Edge of Town: The ultimate album when I’m in a shitty mood, and a great rocker when I’m not. Turn it up!

Bruce Springsteen – Born to Run: “So you’re scared and you’re thinking that maybe we ain’t that young anymore. Show a little faith there’s magic in the night.” (Thunder Road)springsteen-borntorun

Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell: I still like it even though it came out while I was in high school.

Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes – Hearts of Stone: Classic Jersey shore!

Billy Joel – Turnstiles: This was tough. I almost went with his “Glass Houses” instead. I’m not sure either has always stayed with me, but I find myself coming back to them after long breaks.

The Raspberries – Greatest Hits: I know, a “hits” disc is kind of cheating, but this power pop band has been a favorite for years, and the first album of theirs I bought was greatest hits, so I’m sticking to it. Crank out “I Wanna Be With You.”

The Clash – London Calling: A more recent discovery for me compared to many of their longtime fans, but it’s a great album.

Blondie – Parallel Lines: A post-punk classic, just as they started going pop. I can do without the disco “Heart of Glass.”

Simon & Garfunkel – Bridge Over Troubled Water: Skip “El Candor Pasa,” (I’d rather be a bucket than a pail) but otherwise a great album. I heard a lot of S&G as a kid and early teen years.

Elton John – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road: Actually a tossup between this and “Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy.”  Both came out while I was in middle school, and still sound good on the rare occasion I play them.

Eagles – Greatest Hits: Hits yes, but it’s Eagles. It was this or Don Henley’s “Actual Miles,” but that’s a greatest hits too.


I wonder how many I’ll change or realize I missed when I see them on someone else’s list!

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The Case For Mandatory Attendance And Class Participation


We often hear students complaining that professors treat them like children by requiring attendance and/or class participation. “This isn’t high school” is the standard argument. It’s true, they’re not kids anymore, but here’s the reality: demanding participation and attendance is actually treating them like a member of the work force.

Nobody wants a class that’s all lecture, so I’ve made class participation worth 25-30% of the grade in most of my classes. My policy is based on 20 years of business, PR/marketing communications, and journalism experience. I teach from the trenches – it’s about what’s happening in today’s competitive business environment. I’ll trust my more academic colleagues support my war stories with scholarly research.

My job is helping my customers/investors – my students – develop the skills, mindset, ability to learn, and work ethic demanded by employers. Requiring class participation and attendance is treating them as adults, and holds them responsible for contributing like one. I expect them to ask and answer questions – show they’re prepared by getting involved.

In business, you can’t blow off a day of work and get the notes from a colleague. Employees are expected to show up for work (on time) and make a proactive, value-added contribution. If they’re going to miss work (or class), they tell the boss before, not the day after they failed to show up.

On most jobs people accrue 10-15 vacation/personal days per year, but many companies won’t let employees take one during the first three to six months.

At school, each class session makes up about 4% of our total meetings for the semester. Miss three sessions of a class and that’s about 12% of the job not done. No employer allows that – you’d be fired even in a good economy. You can’t show up for work only 90% of the time and expect to stay employed.

I give students two “personal” days off. They can use them as sick days, for athletics, vacation days, (they can even feel too healthy to come to class!)… almost anything goes! They simply have to notify me at least an hour in advance – as long as the syllabus doesn’t say “no excused absences” for that particular class session. For each unexcused absence, I will deduct four points from their course grade.

As with a job or sports, students are part of a team in class, and are expected to pull their weight to help make the class lively and interesting. Here’s a business world truth: Unless you appear to produce more in value than you cost the company (salary, benefits, team moral, etc.), why would your employer keep you on the payroll?

Participation means proactively starting and making value-added contributions to discussions. Sitting in class and taking notes isn’t participating. I teach communications courses – I expect students to communicate. Employees who just show up at a meeting, stare at their phones/laptops, and take up space are not going to stay around for long.

Like work contributions, class participation is competitive – it’s about quantity and quality, so participate early (first mover advantage) and often. Just as they’d compete for raises and promotions on a job, they’re competing for grades in class. That’s part of getting then ready for life outside of academia.

Students should never fear speaking up. It’s my responsibility to make sure that the opinions expressed, and questions asked, are always treated with respect, particularly when it challenges conventional thinking or especially my own beliefs. Students need to be comfortable making mistakes here in an educational environment, so they won’t make them in the unforgiving business world. Participate. Be there. Be here.

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An Open Letter To SiriusXM

SiriusXMGonna write a little letterradio bruce

Gonna mail it to my local DJ

Dear SiriusXM:

This is an update to a letter I wrote three years ago. We need to talk.  I have the seven year itch, and when my current subscription runs out, I might not renew. After seven years as an add-on family member account and then on my own, I’m just not enjoying our relationship as much as I used to.

Some stations have become so predictable that your channels are bordering the lack of variety that inspired me to leave terrestrial radio. For example, if I’m listening to the  70s or 80s channel and hear a particular artist today – let’s use David Bowie as an example – I’m almost guaranteed to hear him several times that day, and then he may disappear for a few days. He might even be on two channels at the same time. On that same day, I’m likely to hear him on Classic Rewind and/or Classic Vinyl too. It’s as if a Program Director adds/removes a particular artist to/from the rotation of several stations on the same day.

Worse yet, the tracks played are clearly the most commercially viable, rather than a true “blast from the past.” The predictability and lack of variety makes SiriusXM close to iHeart Radio’s (Clear Channel’s) mind numbing focus group tested mediocrity, just without commercials.  Remind me what I’ve forgotten or show me something I never knew!

Little StevenDon’t get me wrong – some channels do offer great programming that I can’t get anywhere else. Underground Garage and E Street Radio keep me coming back for more. I appreciate these stations, although episodes of shows like The Michael Des Barres Program tend to rebroadcast a bit too much for my commute. I wish some of your programs would add more weekly segments. I also love hearing DJs I grew up listening to in the New York/New Jersey area. At times it feels like rock still lives at WNEW-FM.

I’m not suggesting that your “decades” stations or genre stations like The Blend need to delve into Deep Tracks territory, but since you don’t have to worry about button pushers lowering ratings or upsetting a sponsor, why limit your playlists to “commercially safe” tracks like iHeart Radio does?

About four years ago, SiriusXM trumpeted that the merger of Siruis and XM would bring more choices for the consumer. So far, I see less musical choices and less listening choices. I used to listen to you in my car and online. After the merger, SiriusXM limited how/where I could listen to satellite radio unless I wanted to pay extra to listen online.

In a few weeks, I’m going to have to make another choice – between SiriusXM or spending only $5.99 a month for Spotify’s student plan, or bringing my whole family and a few friends together under Spotify’s new Family Plan (we can share!). It’s considerably less expensive, and allows me to listen on my computer or mobile devices – in my car, home, or office.  I’m not budgeted for both. C’mon guys, win me back. Rock my world.


Starting Your PR Career: Is NYC The Only Place?

Question/discussion topic:

NYCIn September 2011, I made the transition from full-time PR practitioner to full-time professor at a small, New England private university. This was after 20 years of agency and client-side experience, including the obligatory stint at a New York agency. I still pride myself on being a Jersey Guy, although I wonder why I was crazy enough to deal with that commute.

One of the joys/challenges of being a professor and academic adviser is counseling students as they make the transition to young professionals. I’ve come across many from New England that seem destined to live up to the regional stereotype of never moving/living more than about 20 minutes from the town they grew up in. For many, that means in Boston’s New Hampshire suburbs.

Boston’s a great “town,” but doesn’t spending the first five years of yourBoston career in the Boston ‘burbs limit you? A New Hampshire salary will certainly start you out with a deficit compared to Boston. Despite being talented and personable, some of my students from New Hampshire consider Boston a big city.

That seems in direct “conflict” with my advice and observations about the PR industry that one really needs a New York City agency on their resume as early as possible in order to open up more career doors.

The anecdotal observation I have is that if you’ve worked for a New York firm, you’re capable of working anywhere. Without the NYC firm, you’re just small potatoes. I think there’s some geographic snobbery in our industry, but it does exist right or wrong.

It’s that not a NYC agency does any better work – it’s just perception. I always ask clients that want a “downtown” agency whether they’re paying for results or the view from the conference room.

This may also be similar to the career mobility question of going to a small company vs. big brand name corporation early on. Sure, getting major media coverage is easy working for a company like Apple (low hanging fruit – pun intended), while at a small company you can make a big difference and learn so much more. But the big name on your resume still impresses people more – and will sell you into more jobs.

What do you think?

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My World Gets Rocked

TracksFifteen years ago today (November 10, 1998), Bruce Springsteen released a four-CD box set called Tracks. As a Jersey boy and diehard Springsteen fan, I had waited for months through rumors and the eventual announcement of the long anticipated package. It was scheduled to arrive just weeks before another anticipated package – my first child. The baby’s “release date” was expected to be about December 2.

On the morning of November 10, I sneaked out of work for short morning break and got to Tower Records in Burlington, MA  just as it opened. I grabbed my copy of Tracks, and zipped back to the office. Between calls and meetings, I had a disc or two playing in the background. No time to pour over the 50+ pages of background, photos, and lyrics — the closest I ever get to classic literature.

Heading home that night, I called CarenJB Steph early Dec 1998 to see what I should pick up for dinner. We agreed on Boston Market (I think it was still Boston Chicken back then). Less than an hour after leaving work, I walked in the front door carrying dinner, looking forward to a rockin’ night. “Don’t serve dinner, my water just broke,” was how Caren greeted me at the door.

So three weeks early, off we went to Emerson Hospital, In the wee hours of Wednesday, November 11, Stephanie was born. Why the big rush, Steph? It’s already a holiday (Veterans Day). I’d like to think she was in a hurry to listen to Tracks with me. She constantly reminds me it was to stop me from being able to listen to it. To this day, any time a song from it comes it, I make Steph hear this story. It’s just one of the many annoying and embarrassing things you get to do once you’re a Dad.

So I got my world rocked – just not in the way I expected it.  Now with only 366 days until she can drive, Stephanie is about to do it again. At least the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) has the decency to be closed on her birthday.Steph Cozy Car

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Commuting: Take The Long Way Home

commuteA USA Today article reports new U.S. Census data showing that “about 8% of workers in the USA have commutes of an hour or longer, and nearly 600,000 full-time workers endure megacommutes of at least an hour-and-a-half and 50 miles.” The article mentions “it took no longer to get to work in 2011 than it did in 2000.

Why aren’t commutes getting shorter? Is it because people like Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer don’t believe in telecommuting? Part of the promise of the information age is that business could be done from anyplace. Broadband access, smart phones, and a buffet table full of technologies enable that. You think she’d practice what she’s selling.

I don’t think it’s a matter of not being able to telecommute. In fact, let’s assume for argument’s sake that Mayer is right. Some industries thrive better on face-to-face collaboration. My industry, marketing communications (public relations advertising, etc.) seems to benefit from the team being together.

The problem isn’t being required to be in the office – it’s getting to the office. Long commutes are made worse by “location, location, location” and the thought that a prestigious address is the doorway to success. A meeting room with a skyline view is no more productive than a suburban office park – it just costs more. Too many people in my industry think it still dazzles clients, but it’s a drain on precious capital, and does little employees that have a “life outside of work.”

Would you run an employment ad offering a 90-minute commute as a perk? Maybe some folks in the San Francisco’s East Bay area or people commuting to Manhattan from Bucks County, PA would find it an improvement, but for most of us, it just means adding three hours to the already bloated work day.

The downtown office might attract a few bright, single twenty-somethings, but with experienced and slightly older professionals living further out in the suburbs (for affordable housing and better schools for their kids), does a downtown location really make sense?

It certainly isn’t family friendly. In a stronger economy, companies may have difficulties attracting qualified employees, as more people shun long commutes.

Isn’t work/life balance a way to attract and retain the best, brightest, and most experienced talent? How does a 60-90 minute commute (each way) help workers achieve balance? The family breadwinner is becoming a stranger in his/her own home. Entirely too many kids are being tucked in by a Smartphone — it’s  bedtime via FaceTime.

missingTrainThe Myth and Miss of Mass Transit

Some argue that taking mass transit beats driving your own car, but they’ve probably never done it for a sustained period of time. Let’s use Boston as an example. When the unemployment rate is lower than what we have now, suburban commuter lots are often full by 7 AM. Leave your house at 6:30, drive to the lot by 6:45, pay to park, and catch the 6:50 train into North or South Station. Arrive in town at 7:50 AM, but unless the office is in the same building as the station, your commute isn’t over yet. Now comes the 10-minute walk (perhaps in pouring rain or on a Polar Vortex day) or a transfer to a subway. You arrive in the office at 8 AM, 90 minutes after leaving home.

Getting home, not only is the process reversed, but if the last meeting or phone call of the day runs even five minutes late, that can mean waiting at least another hour for the next train. Forget about returning quickly in the middle of the afternoon if a child gets sick at daycare – there may be a two-hour gap between trains.

After working a 10+-hour day, spending another two or three hours a day commuting is not a positive contribution to balancing work and family life. Does that trendy bar next to the office matter when you want to get home and have dinner with the family?

A reverse commute to the suburbs from the city can be done in a fraction of the time in most cases, so even urban dwellers can get to the office and back home easily, and perhaps still have time to “play” downtown after work.

Employees living outside the box are being asked to think outside the box – shouldn’t they be allowed to work outside the box too? A downtown location is merely a centralized inconvenience for everyone.  Are your clients paying for results or the view from your conference room? Think it over on your ride home tonight.

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Do You Have The Time To Listen To Me Whine?

GreenDayMy generation had little in common with our parents musically. We were told to “turn down that noise, I can’t even hear myself think.” Tail end Baby Boomers like me, born in the 1960s, are the last generation whose parents didn’t grow up listening to rock and roll.

The generation gap no longer applies to music. My kids and I just fight over what rock to listen to. Sometimes we agree. We even took a road tip to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

This past Fall, my 11 year old son, Tyler, mentioned he’d love to see his favorite band, Green Day, if they ever perform nearby. I like them too, so I looked online, and sure enough, tickets were going on sale for a January 18, 2013 show in Manchester, NH, only 40 minutes from home. We paid to join Idiot Nation, Green Day’s official fan club, which let us buy good seats ahead of the general public.

This would be the first concert we agreed on. When he was little, we saw the Hannah Montana/Jonas Brothers tour (for him), followed the next year by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (for me). We both wanted this one, but Tyler “really really really” wanted it. Tyler learned the riffs to American Idiot and Nuclear Family during his guitar lessons. He counted down the months, Tre, Dos, Uno.

Then Green Day postponed the show. Then they canceled it altogether as Billy Joe Armstrong, the lead singer, needed time to complete rehab. Green Day is back on tour, but they’re not coming anywhere near us. Tyler didn’t want the refund, he wanted the show.

Last week, he had to write a sensory poem for his sixth grade Language Arts class. What you’re about to read is his poem, untouched by parental hands – the honest expression of a disappointed 11 year old rocker. If you’re out there, Green Day, and just happen to read this, please, come to Boston (or better yet, back to Manchester).

Tyler at Rock & Roll Hall of Fame - June 2012

Tyler at Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – June 2012

My Dream of Green Day

By Tyler Boroshok

I would love to see Green Day live in show,
playing songs from Dookie, American Idiot, up to Uno.
I can imagine the vocals, the drums, guitar, and bass,

performing my favorite song, Basket Case.
Their rock n roll I find as my sweet, sweet, heaven,
which most people find weird for a kid who’s eleven,
but I don’t care what they say,
because nothing will stop me from listening to Green Day.
I can see them performing in my head,
but it would be cooler to see them live instead.
I can hear the cheers from the crowd,
Green Day fans cheering, and cheering loud.
I’d be along with those screaming fans,
cheering as we hear the wonderful band.
All I needed to hear from Green Day was one song,
because I’ve been a supporting fan all along.
I would ride by train, bus, airplane, or car,
I would travel to see Green Day no matter how far.


Watch Tyler playing Green Day’s “Nuclear Family”