Senior mass communications major and member of the Hornets baseball team Joseph Bittner came to Shenandoah because he wanted to experience the community and personal relationships that come with attending a small university. After going to a large high school where he felt more like a number than a name, Joe was eager to be known by his professors and to be recognized in the classroom and around campus as “Joe.”
Setting his sights on becoming a physical therapist so that he could help people, Joe majored in kinesiology. But life doesn’t always go according to plan. Joe discovered that science wasn’t a strong area for him. In the process of exploring careers that would be a better fit, he took a public speaking class with mass communications professor Kelly Crowley, Ph.D. During that class, Joe’s natural affinity for public speaking and interacting with others emerged. He discovered that he enjoyed public speaking and communications, and after researching careers in mass communications, decided to switch majors.
“I found that talking to people, standing up in front of them, dealing with other people… that’s something I’m good at, and like to do,” said Joe. “With mass communications being that kind of major, I looked into it more and realized that this is what I want to do.
“I want to go to Loyola University in Maryland and get my master’s degree in emerging media. I’d like to work for Accenture, which is a major consulting firm, but if that doesn’t work out, I have other options. My father works for the judicial branch of the State of Maryland, and I interned at their office of mass communication and public affairs. My biggest goal is to work somewhere where I can help the company reach out to the public and show how important they really are.”
During his years at Shenandoah, Joe’s experiences as a member of the Hornets baseball team and sports editor for the ‘Doah gave him opportunities to take risks and expand the possibilities of what he was capable of achieving in life.
“Being on the baseball team, I immediately came in with a giant group of friends,” said Joe. “I had a very large safety net around me because I knew that I could go to them, and having that showed me that I can try new things. I’m not afraid to see what I’m capable of when it comes to things, so being a sports editor, I was able to branch out to other sports at Shenandoah. I could make contacts with the women’s lacrosse team, the basketball team and the football team, and it really helped me meet new people. The baseball team helped out the most because I could go out and meet new people but I could always come back to the same group of guys.”
Joe and the Hornets baseball team have contributed extensively to the local community through a variety of volunteer work, including working with Concern Hotline. In addition to giving him a new perspective about the issues in his own life, volunteering in the community has helped Joe strengthen his communications skills and make valuable contacts with local community leaders.
“We [the baseball team] also do Concern Hotline, which is basically a suicide hotline. I have more respect for that work than I can ever say. Volunteering with Concern Hotline really humbles me. The things I have going on in my life are nothing compared to what the people who call the hotline are going through.”
Now, as he prepares for graduate school and life beyond Shenandoah, Joe reflects on his Shenandoah experiences and the journey that began with a class in public speaking. He credits his Shenandoah University education and the support of baseball Coach Kevin Anderson and mass communications Professor Kelly Crowley with helping him develop the leadership ability, communications skills and confidence to build a career that will enable him to make his own individual mark in the world — a career that will be a perfect fit for Joe Bittner.