Communication professor Mary Mohan's office is as cozy as a living room, and her presence is just as welcoming. In 21 years at Geneseo, Mohan has immersed her public-relations classes in real-world education, pursued her personal interests with passion and established her reputation as one of the nicest and most effective professors at the college.
Mohan grew up in Cleveland and majored in English at a small liberal arts school in the city. While she had her sights on journalism upon entering college, Mohan went directly into public relations after graduating, establishing her own firm and specializing in non-profit organizations. After a few years, her life-long desire to be a teacher compelled her to earn a masters and doctorate in communication and public relations. While teaching classes as a graduate assistant, her dissertation advisor pointed her in the direction of Geneseo.
"They put me down in the College Union, and I had to teach an 8 p.m. class up in Sturges," she said.
Though discouraged at first by Cardiac Hill, Mohan's spirits were won over by the view of the valley.
"Moving here was such a novelty," she said. "I really liked the village, because I had grown up in such a big city."
Mohan still has family and friends back in Cleveland, but she's found her niche in the small village, largely through course projects.
Since beginning her work at Geneseo, the public-relations professor has drifted more toward service learning through the years, in which students work with actual clients and solve institutional problems. She has taken on the role of a mentor, rewarded most by one-on-one interactions with students and alumni, many of whom have found professional success in relevant fields.
"I have a passion for connecting the classroom to real life," Mohan said, "for keeping at least one foot in the real world."
She finds her greatest joy and challenge in organizing these professional-level projects.
Mohan's active involvement in the Public Relations Society of America has helped her connect with clients both for course projects and for internships.
"Our field is all about networking," she said.
Mohan took the position of internship coordinator when she began working at Geneseo, and has since expanded the department's program throughout the region, from the Livingston County News to the Democrat and Chronicle or from 13 WHAM News to News 10 NBC. Some internships even spread nationwide, including Cosmopolitan, the Today Show and, currently, a production group in Los Angeles.
Mohan loves to travel, having been to the British Isles several times, on cruises to Alaskan glaciers and Mayan ruins, and to the many chocolate shops of Ypres, Belgium.
"One of the biggest thrills of my life was when I got to present a paper at Trinity College," she said, reflecting on one of several trips she's taken to Ireland.
Mohan has integrated her passion for traveling into her role as program director of Humanities II in Paris for the past two years, where World War-themed tours took the class to museums, monuments and the beaches of Normandy.
"It was such a moving experience for me," she said, "because my father had been in the D-Day invasion, and then I had students on the trip whose grandfathers were paratroopers."
In addition to traveling, Mohan enjoys spending her free time interior decorating, inspired by shows like Trading Spaces. She is currently working towards her certification in Reiki, a healing technique which involves a balancing of energy, and she regularly takes meditation classes for the same purpose. She also loves to work out at the gym, training in weights and aerobics at least three times a week. Having studied art in school, Mohan likes to paint and engage in a variety of creative projects.
"At some point," Mohan said, "I'd like to do a little more private consulting. I think that I maybe would reopen a firm in the years to come."
She also wants to spend a month volunteering at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Angel Canyon, Utah.
Next semester, Mohan will be taking a sabbatical leave to write a textbook, drawing on years of experience in public relations and many of the service-learning techniques she has used in connecting students to real-world experience.
"I certainly don't see myself giving up teaching anytime in the near future," she said.