As another school year begins, the CS team reflects on their favorite subjects in school and shares how these classes influenced their career today.


Dennis Culloton, President & CEO

In college, my favorite classes were in my major, journalism. Interestingly enough, my favorite class that I took during college was not an upper-level journalism class but the famous Medill Basic Writing class that I took Winter quarter. I learned so much about concise, clear writing and, more than anything, had my ego cut down to size by the adjunct, Abigail Fletcher.  She used so much red ink to mark up my story of our class interview of her it looked like she was diagramming the Battle of Midway. The good news is that as much as I had patronizing, redundant language, I did not commit—then or ever—the dreaded Medill F one earns with a factual error (which includes misspelling a name!)

The following year, veteran magazine editor Mike Bosc taught me tight, punchy news writing. We learned to make our leads as tight as possible.  The best example, from a wire service crime reporter (and this could be lore) who got his lead down to one word:

CHICAGO— Dead. That’s the condition of John Doe after he was shot last night in his West Side neighborhood….


Tracey Mendrek, Executive Vice President

While reflecting on the team blog topic for today it became apparent to me that the answer to this question changes over time.  What was your favorite subject in school at some point meant the one that garnered the coveted A. Then there was your favorite subject that had all your best pals in it. And finally, at some point it becomes the class that created the best memories. I picked the best memory category for my favorite subject, The Great River. The Great River was a much sought after class with two outstanding professors delving into the history of the Mississippi River. As a Midwestern born and raised, the river has a special place for me, not only the source of great weekends of water skiing, but trips with my family to observe the “mighty” Mississippi after an especially heavy rain, proving that the river could never truly be tamed. The class did not focus on the physical strength of the river, but the people who explored it, the communities that developed around it and the way it shaped history for generations.  It culminated in a several day field trip to see the places we studied up close.  Climbing in and out of the van as we stopped at one more historical marker to read a plaque and look out over the expanse of the river, quickly turned into the phrase “hysterical” marker among the students. As to how The Great River helps my career, I’m not sure I can quantify that.  Perhaps it has added to my ability to see things more globally, or has instilled in me a further appreciation for the great Midwestern spirit, but mostly it has helped me appreciate good teachers who make a subject interesting and without really trying teach you things you never knew before. Very rarely to do find that in a mentor, a colleague or a client, but when you do it is important to stop and listen.


Patrick Skarr, Account Supervisor

Without a doubt, history was my favorite subject. I always enjoyed reading history books. So much so that as a child my mother was concerned I checked out books on WWII instead of Dr. Seuss. In high school I read about the Peace Treaty of Westphalia of 1648, after the then U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador Robert Zoellick, made an offhand comment at an event in Naperville about how the accord had paved the way for globalization. (He is still the smartest man I’ve ever been in a room with.)

Either way, enjoying the study of history provides context and reminds me constantly of the virtue of patience and perspective. History, especially in our profession of public affairs PR, repeats itself constantly, and without knowledge of the past, you’re simply flailing around in the present.


Manny Ozaeta, Account Supervisor

My favorite class in high school was speech/debate. It was probably foretelling of a career in communications.

It was there that I learned the basics of speech writing including: knowing your audience, appropriate attention getters, transitions, transitions, transitions and finally, a solid conclusion. But I also learned another valuable lesson: the power of listening. Although, it has been engrained in us that communication is a two way street, there are still those who believe it is a self-entitled and personal boulevard.

I firmly believe the best way to serve the client is to always, always listen first.


Julia Schatz, Senior Account Executive

In college, I decided to double major because I was very interested in two subjects: Psychology and Journalism. I loved learning about the psychology behind people’s actions, decisions and choices. I had always been a strong writer so English and writing classes always came pretty easy to me, which usually made them enjoyable.

The University of Wisconsin’s School of Journalism & Mass Communications (aka the “J-School”) was a well-respected program. I loved all of my classes and think each class helped prepare me for the career I am in now. However, it was my first and last class in the J-school that really stuck out to me.

The first, J202, was a mandatory class everyone had to take once being accepted into the program. Every Monday we would have an AP style & grammar and current events quiz. Basically, the class was a back-to-the-basics boot camp and it was by far the most necessary, practical, and helpful class I took all four years. I think everyone at UW should take this class, not just J-school students.

My last semester of college I took a Media and Public Opinion course which combined my interests of psychology, journalism and desire to influence people. I didn’t know it at the time, but in retrospect, this was a class on PR/Public Affairs and taught me a great deal about the work I am doing now at Culloton Strategies.


Conor Culloton, Assistant Account Executive

Although history may not be my major as I start my sophomore year of college, it has always been my favorite subject in school. I think what first interested me about history was my love of a great narrative, because history is full of amazing, true stories. Later in my academic career, specifically last semester, I came to a realization that history isn’t just the study of important events happening and leading to other events. In a History of Chicago course that I took last semester, the professor stressed that so much of Chicago’s history and culture has been influenced by how Chicagoans see themselves. This idea that the way people view themselves is the root of their thoughts and actions has influenced my perspective on how and why things happen. I apply this perspective to everything from political science class to Spanish literature class to ethics class to what I see working at Culloton Strategies.