The professor: Dr. Karen McGrath, professor of communications, department chair, internship coordinator, and a member of the Saint Rose faculty since 1997
The alum: Dr. Regina Luttrell G’07, associate dean, research and creative activity, Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University
The project: Co-authors of “The Millennial Mindset: Unraveling Fact From Fiction” (2016), “Brew Your Business: The Ultimate Guide to Craft Brewing” (2017), and “Gen Z: The Superhero Generation” (2021), all published by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Karen McGrath and Regina Luttrell, once professor and student and now colleagues and friends, shared so many scholarly interests that their discussions in the hallways of the Hearst Center for Communications and Interactive Media generated ideas for articles, conferences, presentations, and books.
Their resulting book, “Millennial Mindset,” has influenced the conversation about the generation. That book, followed by “Gen Z: The Superhero Generation,” reminds the young and less young to consider factors that create barriers in communication.
Their work also shows the benefits of studying on a small liberal arts campus. Here, McGrath and Luttrell discuss their collaboration.
On meeting at Saint Rose:
Luttrell: I was in the Albany area working as a PR specialist for state and nonprofit organizations. I really felt I needed a master’s degree in order to advance. My application went to Karen, and that’s when everything started. I got engaged, I got married, had two kids, and the whole span of my life she’s been in it. We had a professional relationship. Now our husbands are friends and Karen is like an aunt to my girls. We’re like family. On classes that changed everything:
Luttrell: Karen’s one of those professors who makes you think, opens your mind to new ideas. I had the professional skills – how to write a press release; how to write a podcast. Karen asked you to look more broadly.
McGrath: Students coming from the workplace already had the techniques but often didn’t have the “what’s behind it?” the “why?” Going from writing press releases to academic papers is not an easy process, but Gina kept persisting.
From working professional to academic:
Luttrell: When I defended my thesis, “What Does It Mean to be a PR Practitioner in Today’s Marketplace?” the comm faculty asked me to stay on as a visiting professor. That changed my trajectory. I knew I wanted to be an educator.
McGrath: When Gina came on as a visiting professor and started her Ph.D. work, we discussed her dissertation goals, coursework, student learning, pedagogy strategies, social media (Gina’s bailiwick), changes in PR, and so much more. The Hearst hallways became a place to test scholarly ideas and future conference presentations, too!
On those young people:
Luttrell: We were talking about students and these misnomers like “they’re lazy.” I said, “I don’t see all these negative things the media is saying. We should write a book about it.” Karen agreed, and we created a proposal.
McGrath: Millennials had overlooked but strong traits; yet so many people commented that they were always online and didn’t seem to look up to their elders. We wanted to really demonstrate that it’s not always negative. They are close to their parents, concerned for the environment, and have respect for a variety of cultures.
And if there are negatives, there are also reasons. Millennials weren’t always in workplace, cultural, and physical environments that were as conducive to being as successful as their generational predecessors, who sometimes overlook how the world has changed, especially climatically and economically, and not often for the better.
On dividing up the work:
Luttrell: We’d do an outline on the traits, and Karen would say, “I’m interested in this one.” I’d say, “I’m intrigued by this.” We did a lot of research from primary sources and secondary sources. We also used different research methods for each book. For the first book, we used in-depth interviews, and for the second book, we used surveys. It was a tandem effort.
McGrath: We might have started chapters on our own but never ended them that way. Teamwork and a unified voice were primary.
On why it matters:
Luttrell: Both books explain how these individuals were raised, how they were educated, and how that affects the next phase of their lives. We are talking about things that matter. Everyone wants to get in the mind of another generation.
McGrath: We hope our research impacts society or impacts the educational community and each generation, too!
On the great response to “Millennial Mindset”:
Luttrell: When I started writing for a general population, I heard they start out hardcover and, if they do well, go to softcover. When they said it was going to softcover I thought, “Wow it’s a good book!”
McGrath: We’ve been asked to speak at conferences – regional and national. We’ve done workshops and been interviewed. Generational differences, good and bad, make for interesting discussions and are always timely.
On the importance of Saint Rose:
McGrath: We are in a small liberal arts environment where we get to really understand people and build mutual respect. I think that Gina choosing to conduct some of her scholarly research with me, even though she’s at a larger and well-known university, says something about what the College can and does offer alumni and faculty from day one and contributes to the lifelong learning enveloped in the College’s mission.