Ford rises in PR after graduating with four majors

Lindsay Kriz

Many people come to WKU with the idea of having one or even two majors.

Sam Ford, recently named Social Media Innovator of the Year, graduated with four.

Ford, a 2005 WKU graduate, left campus with bachelor’s degrees in news editorial journalism, communication studies, English and mass communications with a minor in film studies.

And that was just the beginning of his accomplishments.

“My mentality was, I was here on scholarship, and I should just take the most advantage of it as I could,” Ford said.

While at WKU, Ford worked for his hometown’s newspaper in Beaver Dam, The Ohio County Messenger, and participated in the Honors Program.

It was through the Honors program that Ford decided to combine aspects of his four majors into his Honors thesis on pro wrestling.

Part of his thesis involved going to actual matches and interviewing the adults there.

“This was at a time when journalism and media, when people were just starting to talk about convergence and what it means,” he said. “It’s not just print.”

Ford said that after graduating he decided to do what anyone would do when they don’t know what to do next: graduate school.

After being invited to dinner with well-known Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Ford decided to apply to seven “hard” programs, including multiple Ivy League schools.

Ford began to lose hope when he received multiple rejection letters. That is, until he go a call from Henry Jenkins, head of the comparative media studies program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, accepting him into MIT’s program.

“It’s interesting because I applied to seven schools and I ended up only getting into MIT,” he said. “And that year a study came out that said that MIT was the hardest school in the United States to get into. And I thought that was hilarious.”

After that, Ford said he basically graduated, had dinner with his family and then hit the road for the 18-hour drive to Cambridge.

Once Ford started classes, he learned that the program, which didn’t help fund the master’s students as a whole, had decided that they were going to find a way to bring in some money.

“The idea at the time was: What does applied humanities look like?” he said. “How do you take the kind of work you would do in humanities and actually have that intersect outside the classroom?”

To answer this question, the program launched multiple research studies, Ford said.

He took part in the project called “Convergence Culture Consortium,” a program that lasted five years, its first two taking place during Ford’s two years at grad school.

After graduating, he stayed on and managed the project.

William Uricchio, professor and director of the Comparative Media Studies program, said he often still connects with Ford.

“He’s a really special guy,” Uricchio said. “Here’s someone who you can quickly discover his passions. He’s a really unique character.”

After graduating, Ford was approached by a group called Peppercom Strategic Communications – a communications company based out of Manhattan – that wanted to hire someone to reach out to their clients.

Ford began consulting with the group and was eventually offered a full-time job as Director of Digital Strategy – a job he still has in Bowling Green.

“I probably at one point or another have consulted with about every client Peppercom has,” he said.

Recently, Ford learned that he was named Social Media Innovator of the Year in the 2011 Bulldog Stars of PR Awards for Outstanding Achievement by Communications Agencies and Professionals.

“It was a big surprise for me,” he said.

Ken Payne, associate professor of public relations, helped create Journalism 495, a collaborative journalism class, alongside Ford.

Payne said that Ford is a valuable member of the public relations world.

“Wherever he goes he just brings huge value to the (PR) conversation,” he said. “He’s always more than willing to go out of his way to help in whatever way he can.”

Today, Ford continues to work with his alma maters by teaching a few courses at WKU, including a soap opera course, and putting together a conference at MIT in November, as well as working with Peppercom.

“It’s an interesting job,” he said. “It brings something new everyday. I’ve met a lot of interesting people along the way.”