POTW: Dr. Adam Earnheardt, Youngstown State University

Each week, the #SpanningtheNeed podcast will present an “Inspirational Person of the Week’ and have a “Q & A” with one of its many gifted individuals and/or groups who are willing to go out of their own way to help others. This week’s featured is Dr. Adam Earnheardt from Youngstown State University. |  Nominate Someone Now!

Name:  Dr. Adam Earnheardt
Position: Professor and Special Assistant to the Provost
Youngstown State University
Bio: Dr. Adam Earnheardt is a professor of communication and special assistant to the Provost at Youngstown State University. He serves as the executive director of the Youngstown Press Club and most recently served as the interim executive director for the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Earnheardt has published several books including The Modern Communicator, Public Speaking in the Age of Technology and ESPN and the Changing Sports Media Landscape. His other books focus on sports fans, identity, and socialization. Adam and his wife, Dr. Mary Beth Earnheardt, share column-writing duties under the header The Earnheardts for Mahoning Matters (a Google-McClatchy Compass Project). The Earnheardts originally focused on the challenges of parenting during the COVID-19 pandemic. Before writing for Mahoning Matters, Adam was a columnist for The Vindicator and Tribune-Chronicle newspapers, where he wrote about social media, relationships, technology and society. He has authored or co-authored more than a dozen peer-reviewed journal articles, encyclopedia entries, and book chapters, including a chapter entitled “Influencers and Listeners” for an integrated marketing textbook. Earnheardt has served as an expert source on topics related to social media, parenting, sports and fandom for various radio and television programs (most recently for Vice TV’s the Dark Side of Football series), and in several publications including Parade Magazine, Psychology Today, Playboy, and several newspapers and magazines including the Baltimore Sun Times, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Vancouver Magazine and others. In January 2014, Earnheardt was invited to present at the inaugural TEDxYoungstown event, where he spoke about the power of social media and sports to create social change.

What made you want to go into this field?
I never really thought about being a teacher, let alone a professor. But when I started my career some 30 years ago in higher education, I saw the power and influence that professors had in my life. And I knew I could share that with students, I knew I had the skills and talents to be a good teacher. Plus, my mom was very supportive and always told me she thought I should either teach or coach, and in a way, I guess I’m doing both now.

What’s the biggest factor that has helped you be successful?
Relying on the advice of friends and family. They probably don’t think I was listening to all that advice, but when I talked to those around me – especially those who were successful either personally or professionally or both – I tucked away those little nuggets of wisdom and pulled them out when I needed to know which direction to turn. For example, one of the best pieces of advice I ever got came from Dr. John Shropshire, one of my first supervisors. He said “You’re too young to make a mistake. Take chances now, while you’re young.”

What is the biggest professional mistake you made along the way?
You don’t have enough space or time for this.

What is the hardest decision you ever had to make in this field?
Leaving my first full-time job at Clarion University.  I was the University’s first-ever webmaster and e-marketing director and the sky was really the limit for where my career might go. But I was really set on becoming a full-time professor, a researcher and teacher. So, I took a chance and started working on my doctoral degree. I was lucky to have a supportive partner (and fellow doctoral student!) along the way. When I was ready, I applied for teaching jobs and was really lucky to be offered every single job I interviewed for. But when the YSU job was offered, it felt right – and that hard decision to start my doctoral degree turned in to one of the easiest decisions of my life: to move the family to Youngstown.

If you could start all over again, what would you do differently regarding your profession?
It’s easy to say yes, but in reality I would miss all the important stuff I learned along the way. So, no. I wouldn’t change a thing.

What inspires you to do good in our community?
There’s no way I can pin it down to one thing, because when I do community service, my inspiration changes. Right now I’m doing service work for the Liberty Little Leopards, and I’m doing that because, first and foremost, my son is playing. But I’m also doing it because I’m inspired by the people who give selflessly of their time and energy – for no pay and very little recognition. They’re truly doing it because it’s the right thing to do.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering in our community?
Being around other people. As an extrovert, I feed off the energy of those around me. When I get back from a board meeting or an event, and I’m around other like-minded community members, that energy can keep me going for days. And the great thing is that I think other people feed off that same energy. Plus, I really do enjoy seeing the final product – when all the work is done and we’ve brought people together or achieved some goal – it feels good to feel proud of those accomplishment we’ve made as a group.

What song best describes you or is the soundtrack to your life?
That might be the toughest question ever. I’m a huge music fan, so I don’t know if I could pick just one, or even just one artist.  I do know that when I open playlists in Spotify during the day, I tend to go to Satie, Debussy or Chopin – but any second I might be loading up a grunge playlist or Lenny Kravitz or David Bowie.

What is your best accomplishment/experience in life?
My kids. Easily the best experience and best accomplishment all wrapped up in one – or, in my case, all wrapped up in four. Everyday I think about how lucky I am they are in my life. They make me smile and want to be a better person.

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Who is your role model and Why?
I have so many, but the most influential role model is my wife. I like to say that I married up, and I did, but not just because she’s smarter than me. I see the way she interacts with the people in her life, how she tries to bring people together, how she navigates problems, and I try to mirror some of those behaviors. I like to think she really does have life figured out, even if she wouldn’t agree with my assessment.

If there was one person that you would like to meet, past or present and why?
Someone on my Dad’s side of the family. My Dad died 12 years ago after a long battle with mental illness. But we never took the time to try to find relatives on his side of the family. I don’t know if they disowned him or simply forgot about him, but I really never had the chance to ask him much about it beyond some fleeting side conversations. I even did the “23 And Me” DNA test to see if I could find some random matches, but so far nothing.

A favorite quote that you live by?
“Don’t believe me, check me out.” That was a quote my college photography teacher would spout off more than once in a class.  He was constantly challenging us to not take for granted something was true, to do our own research, to answer our own questions. The irony of course was that this was a photography professor who was also telling us not to trust what we see in pictures, and to find facts and truth on our own.


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