Coffee and Communication: An Interview with Associate Professor Pat Maxwell

You can always tell a person by the way they take their coffee.

There are the strange, often overbearing types who prefer their joe black. The rash, “I live life on the edge” types drop no less than 6 cubes of sugar into what used to be commendable coffee.

The clinically insane types who don’t drink coffee—these people are not to be trusted. Then, there are people like the Division of Humanities’ new associate professor of communication, Pat Maxwell. Like every other tour-de-force whose come before her, Maxwell enjoys her sludge with a bit of crème.

“I’m totally addicted to marketing communications,” interjected Maxwell between sips of The Mill’s vanilla-nut brew as we discussed her passions. This comes as no surprise. Maxwell has worked in marketing communications her entire career, before accepting Union College’s offer to join the Division of Humanities as Michelle Mesnard’s (the newly appointed assistant to the Academic Dean) replacement.

Maxwell spent the better part of her career in Southern California, where she’s worked as the Director of Marketing Communications for the Catalina Island Conservancy, a special interest group responsible for the management of California’s Catalina Island, and before that as the Director of Marketing Communications for the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

With roots deep in the soil of marketing communication, her tenure at Union is the first teaching opportunity to cross her path. It’s not her first experience at Union, though, as she slung de ink her Freshman year in college, at the tender age of 17.

“When I stepped onto Union’s campus for my interview last spring, it felt like I was coming home,” began Maxwell, as she recounted a story about lacing up her tennis shoes and taking a walk through campus.

“It was night time, which is funny, because in Southern California you don’t ever take a walk at night unless you’ve got a dog or a gun,” joked Maxwell.

“I must’ve run into 10 different groups of students that evening. Every one of them was so friendly and expressive, willing to help me out. You just don’t find that in very many places.”

Maxwell was hooked.

During her transition from professional to professor, she hit the ground running. “Two days after landing in Lincoln, I went and joined Lincoln’s Chamber of Commerce.” This excites Maxwell, because it means students in her public relations classes will have tremendous opportunities to work with real companies doing real things.

Curiously, gently, and with a tone that instills confidence, Maxwell spoke of her many interests. “I’m constantly reading. I must have twenty different books going at the same time!”

If she isn’t reading in her spare time, you’ll find Maxwell feeding her addiction to marketing communications. She’s currently in the process of starting her own consulting company, called Pinnacle Communications.

Before slugging down her last sip of lukewarm perk, she offered a bit of wisdom she’s gained from her years working in the field. “My students need to know how to be flexible in this economy, and they need to have the courage to be themselves. I think these are essential skills to have in order to make it in the modern world.”

Well said, professor Maxwell. But you forgot one thing: If you don’t drink coffee, you should probably find another profession.


Steven is a senior studying communication.