Ebony Utley, Ph.D.

--- Professor of Communication Studies & Associate Director of CSULB's Innovation Institute ---

I invite guest speakers to show my students people who look like them who have achieved. I want to put them in the room with people who have the potential to shape their careers. I know from my personal experience how a guest speaker can change the way you see yourself and what’s possible for you.
What are your thoughts on the guest speaker method?

The guest speaker method is an invaluable opportunity to expand the educational experience. The old adage, “Experience is the best teacher” is absolutely true. But that initial experience does not have to be personal. Sometimes it’s better when it’s not. I’ll share two quick stories of guest speakers who changed my life as an undergraduate when I was a McNair scholar. The program sent me to an event where a black woman shared that she hadn’t spent one penny on her education from undergrad through her doctorate because she earned fellowships. I didn’t even know that was possible until she said it. That day, I vowed that would also be my experience, and it was. The other guest speaker was a senior scholar in my discipline who gave a talk my junior or senior year. I walked up to him after and told him, “You should know my name.” He laughed and asked who I was. Then we made some small talk. A few weeks later, he asked my advisor to reach out to me so that he could pay for my first national conference where he literally took me by the hand to meet the people who would shape the next 15 years of my career. Now that I am one of those senior scholars, I invite guest speakers to show my students people who look like them who have achieved. I want to put them in the room (Zoom or face to face) with people who have the potential to shape their careers. I know from my personal experience how a guest speaker can change the way you see yourself and what’s possible for you. It’s my job to invite the guest speakers who can invite my students to have those life changing experiences as well.

You are a SpeakerPost power user! Tell us about some of the folks you've met on the platform and your interaction with them.

My most impressionable interactions on SpeakerPost have been with its younger speakers. Students are inspired by speakers close to their age. It increases their sense of possibility when they can engage with an entrepreneur no more than a decade older than they are. Someone who has fresh memories of college, graduation, first jobs, first major failure, and first major heartbreak normalizes challenges and the ability to overcome them. SpeakerPost is invaluable because it helps me find these younger speakers. Besides my former students, my network and peer group age with me, making them less and less connected to my student population. With SpeakerPost, I’ve been able to harness the energy of young go getters and pass that energy along to my students. It makes me cool when students think my invited guests are cool.

At CSULB's Institute of Innovation & Entrepreneurship, you run purpose-driven, action-oriented programs and workshops. What impact do you think these sessions have on students?

At CSULB's Institute of Innovation & Entrepreneurship, we want our student-centered programs to be educational and actionable. We invite guest speakers who offer our audiences new vocabularies, who express vulnerability through their honest accounts of success and failure, and who provide actionable steps on how to move forward. When I moderate sessions, I create hypothetical scenarios relevant to the audience and ask our guests how they would respond. I always ask for advice. I ask “what do you wish you knew.” During one of our monthly programs, my team and I learned that our student audiences were growing passive on Zoom. So after our sessions, we created breakout rooms so that students can join a panelist of their choice for a more intimate conversation. We’ve heard that it’s been a wonderful experience for students to receive those actionable steps in a one-to one or small group conversation. Speakers who would be weary of sharing their personal information with everyone on the Zoom are willing to do so in these smaller conversations. These networks create actionable steps and accountability which is such an important part of the educational experience.

Ebony Utley, Ph.D. Bio:

Ebony A. Utley, Ph.D. is a professorpreneur. As a Professor of Communication Studies at California State University Long Beach she researches, publishes, and teaches interpersonal communication. Her expertise has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Network as well as other national and international radio, print, and online outlets. As an entrepreneur, she curates experiences and develops technology products for social impact. Her contributions include but are not limited to raising awareness about the dark side of technology, improving romantic relationship communication, supporting women recovering from infidelity, preventing domestic violence through entrepreneurship, and healing via ebony.yoga. As an intrapreneur, Dr. Utley is program manager of the Apostle Enterprise Lab, Associate Director for the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and the founder of the Social Justice Entrepreneurship program all at California State University Long Beach.

I love talking about my work, life, and perspectives. It's a very engaging and fulfilling experience for me to be able to connect with people openly and honestly on that level.
- Adeet Deshmukh
Guest lecturing is rewarding in that it allows me to stay abreast of what the next generation is thinking and what the top academics are concerned about and it allows me to give back and share my wisdom with tomorrows society leaders.
- Rishad Tobaccowalla
There is a distance between the world of academia and industry-- giving back to students with a professional's perspective tightens that distance and gives students invaluable direction for their future.
- Jared Nicol
The divide between the industry and academia is widening. The next generation of graduates are being armed with knowledge and skills that are irrelevant by the time they graduate. Professionals must collaborate with professors and cultivate classrooms where everyone benefits.
- Richie Etwaru
Bringing in communication professionals to guest lecture in my classroom is an excellent way to bring the material home and to further inspire students and to educate them on the various opportunities in our industry.
- Michelle Truelson
One of the biggest challenges for college professors is insuring that real-world demands of work and of professions are represented. Most professors have career experience working as teachers and researchers and don’t necessarily have detailed understanding of the needs of other professions. At the same time, we are expected to help prepare the next generation to move into business and professions. Guest lectures can be one solution to this challenge. Industry experts, corporate leaders, and business professionals can help insure that class content is relevant to the world of work.
- Matthew Seeger, Ph.D.
Most rewarding experience for me is getting students excited about a career in Consumer Insights, and seeing the value of anthropological thinking to consumer research
- Timothy Malefyt, Ph.D.
I am very motivated to share my life and professional experiences with students, so that I can bring some insight into the world of entrepreneurship, which is the most scary, grueling yet rewarding career path there is.
- Gaye Tomlinson
Speaking provides an opportunity for me to teach and share information that can change lives.
- Karen I. Wilson, Ph.D.
Guest lecturing provides an opportunity to connect with community at-large
- Mugdha Yeolekar, Ph.D.
I like talking about PR because it’s something everything thinks they understand - but they really don’t know how it is different from advertising or marketing. I break it down in simple terms and make the tactics and theories very digestible.
- Andrea Holland
I have been very fortunate in my life and career. It’s my pleasure to share my experience to help others get their start.
- Don Lupo
“I’m on and see both sides of the equation. I ask and I deliver as a presenter. For 46 years and 79 semesters of teaching, I have used as many as 27 outside pros to make a memorable semester of Marketing, business or advertising classes at USC, at CSUN, at LMU and at Pepperdine (Both undergrad and graduate). The speakers help a class standout, be memorable and the students stay interested and focused. The students get much more from an organized, special class with relevant, top-notch speakers, presenters and judges. Always have and always will.”
- Larry Steven Londre
I strongly believe in the practice of service, whether it was my military service or just helping total strangers. At this point in my life experience, I suppose I have entered the developmental stage of generativity, where I want to contribute to the wellbeing of younger generations.
- Kevin Beatty
I invite guest speakers to show my students people who look like them who have achieved. I want to put them in the room with people who have the potential to shape their careers. I know from my personal experience how a guest speaker can change the way you see yourself and what’s possible for you.
- Ebony Utley, Ph.D.