The Orion

A baby, new job: what next?

by Amber Whiteside

Public relations classes provide insight about knowing your audience, and new faculty member Prisca Ngondo takes that lesson to a whole new level.

Through her travels from Zimbabwe to South Dakota, then to Oklahoma, Texas and finally Chico, Ngondo really does understand how to speak to just about anyone.

“When we talk about different audiences in public relations, I can definitely speak to that and give examples from different parts of the country and the world,” Ngondo said. “I can bring an international perspective to the journalism department.”

Ngondo left her home in Zimbabwe to pursue her undergraduate degree in South Dakota. She received her master’s at the University of Oklahoma and then her doctorate at Texas Tech University.

“I was always seeking adventure and opportunity,” Ngondo said. “The opportunity always arose at the right time.”

Living in many locations has provided her with the opportunity to teach her students various angles on how to relate to different audiences, she said. Although she first considered going to law school, her experiences in college led her to pursue teaching public relations.

“I like interacting with people and enjoyed campus life,” Ngondo said. “I want to pass on the knowledgeable things I learned through my own work experience and classroom experience.”

After all of her traveling, Ngondo decided she wanted to find somewhere to call home. A teaching job in the journalism department at Chico State was the perfect opportunity for her to find a place to settle down.

“When I went to the interview I felt like I belonged from the beginning,” Ngondo said. “I liked where the program was heading.”

Ngondo first set foot in Chico in the midst of the very rainy March 2012. She was scheduled to arrive in Chico just in time for a full evening’s rest before she had her first teaching presentation of her two-day job interview. But her flight from Sacramento to Chico was canceled, and she arrived in Chico the next morning, just minutes before her scheduled presentation.

“It told us a great deal about what she’d be like as a teacher when she took over a class after virtually no sleep,” said Department of Journalism and Public Relations Chair Susan Wiesinger. “It was clear to us that anyone who could be that flexible was going to be a great asset to the program.”

Ngondo has had a wide array of experiences that have helped her to become a more qualified teacher. She received a teaching fellowship at Texas Tech, which was a great accomplishment as only 20 people out of the hundreds of applicants were chosen. Her research also has received recognition, with three top paper awards at national and regional conferences. In terms of professional experience, Ngondo also worked for the Norman Economic Development Coalition writing press releases in Oklahoma.

Ngondo started work at Chico State fall 2012, teaching JOUR 341, Writing for Public Relations, and JOUR 342, Public Relations Research, as well as stepping in as the department’s curriculum assessment coordinator.

She loves her job, she said. Her interaction with her students is the most rewarding part because she gets to see their progression and see when it finally starts coming together and making sense to them.

One of Ngondo’s students said she enjoys her classes because of her optimism and personal anecdotes that makes learning more interactive.

“Prisca engages her students well since she expects us to have conversations but doesn’t make us feel pressured,” said Hayley Barrett, a senior at Chico State. “She doesn’t overwhelm her students and is available to help when she can.”

Ngondo has now begun to settle down in the town she called a “healthy balance” between a big city and a small town with all the comforts she needs.

Ngondo began to make herself at home in Chico by becoming a first-time dog owner of a Lhaso apso and discovering new restaurants and shops around town that soon became favorites. However, the importance of finding a place to put down roots became even more serious when Ngondo found out she was pregnant.

“I have to put my PR crisis communication head on,” Ngondo said.

She now has a new task of balancing teaching, finishing her dissertation and preparing for her baby.

Even though she said she is now constantly tired, the department has been giving her a lot of support. They make it feel even more like home, Ngondo said. Her plan now is to focus on obtaining her tenure, a six-year process, as well as raising a healthy, intelligent baby.

“My goal is to professionally and personally be in a good and happy place,” Ngondo said.