By: Zoe Bernardi, Community Editor
It’s 1983. Microsoft Word is a new invention. President Ronald Reagan is serving in office. Ed Barks graduated from USM with a degree in Political Science and a minor in Economics.
Barks, originally from New Britain, Connecticut and was the first person in his family to graduate college.
He says he didn’t follow the “typical path.” Rather than jumping into college after graduating from high school, Barks decided to work. He worked in radio broadcasting at WBLM. “Now, that was the greatest job a 20-something-year-old could ever hope to have,” he said.
Once he finished his career in the radio world, he moved to Portland for school. Bouncing around numerous rentals in the city, “such is the life of a nomadic college student.” Barks said he lived on “St. John Street, Roberts Street, and Washburn Avenue” Barks said. He enjoyed being “so close to campus in a wonderful neighborhood.”
When Barks wasn’t in class or at his apartment, he was running meetings for the Political Science Majors Association where he served one year as president.
Then came 1983, Barks senior year. He graduated summa cum laude with a BS in Political Science and a minor in Economics. “Those disciplines helped me sharpen my research and writing skills — skills that are invaluable in professional life,” he said.
After that Barks left the campus and entered post-grad life. While he was still at USM he was given the opportunity to have an internship while in school he knew a few people in Washington DC and decided to move down there.
His summer internship was with Sen. George Mitchell in his Capitol Hill office. Sen. Mitchell wrote a foreword for Barks’ first book later on. “I have the late Professor Oliver Woshinsky, who later in life became a fast friend, to thank for that,” he said. Professor Woshnisky worked at USM for over 30 years in the Political Science department. He passed away earlier in May 2019.
After graduation, Barks moved to Washington D.C. with fellow alumna and wife Celeste Heath “By now you could call me an inside-the-Beltway creature — and that’s a good thing,” he said.
Barks has been the president of Barks Communication for more than two decades. Where he is “providing communications and public affairs strategy consulting services to large companies and associations.” He is also a very successful author.
Writing and publishing, “A+ Strategies for C-Suite Communications: Turning Today’s Leaders into Tomorrow’s Influencers and the second edition of The Truth About Public Speaking: The Three Keys to Great Presentations were published in 2019.” He says, “to show what a lasting impact professor can have upon students, I dedicated A+ Strategies for C-Suite Communications to Professor Woshinsky all those years after studying with him.”
Since being out of USM now for 36 years Barks reflections in what he wishes he knew about post-grad life. He says, “It’s important to recognize that it can be highly beneficial to go out in the world and experience things before entering college.” He continues with, “I took my studies much more seriously after a few years in the working world. That approach may not fit everyone, but it can be a good idea for many.”
The time Barks spent working at radio broadcasting helped him understand what he wanted to do in the future. Having real-life experiences made it clearer for what his future goals would be and what he wanted to accomplish. “working in radio broadcasting, having a great time while learning to communicate more effectively” says Barks.
Barks took his time to figure out what he wanted, rather than running to school and figuring it out there. He wanted to experience the world and do something fun when he was 20. He says “never let anyone shove you into a box. For example, if you don’t connect with a certain professor, change instructors if possible or drop the course — or find a way to study your way independently while still meeting the course requirements.”
This advice Barks gives deals with issues students still have, he also adds, “it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a bad student or the professor is a dud; it may just be a poor match for whatever reason.”
Secondly, he says, “push, push, push to get what you want. You’re paying good tuition money. The faculty and staff are here to serve you, not the other way around.”
He ends by saying, “I strongly believe that you can get as good an education at USM as at any other university. It’s all up to you. Granted, you have to work harder to identify top-shelf research, but it can be done. After graduation, the fact you have to be more diligent gives you an edge over those who know nothing but a privilege.”