From the Military to the College Classroom — The Story of Professor Ava Perrine

Anaya Balkcom

There are many factors that come together to create Delaware State University. One of them being the hard-working professors that constantly pour into the students of the university. An example of one of the many amazing professors found on this campus, is Professor Ava Perrine. Professor Perrine teaches  in the Mass Communications department, and is also the supervisor of the campus radio station. Although Professor Perrine plays a number of roles on campus, she also plays a number of roles off campus. This professor is the example of practicing what you preach by constantly seeking new opportunities and putting her mind to anything she deems possible. In order to gain more insight into the world of Professor Perrine, I scheduled an interview with her, in the hopes of seeing the world through her perspective. 

Q1: Can we get to meet the man/woman behind the face?

A: Where were you born and what was your upbringing like?

Wow! We’re really going back a ways, well I’m a native of Chicago, Illinois and a product of Catholic School K-12. I attended an all girls Catholic High School, and started my college experience at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. My upbringing was what you would consider regular for a city kid. Though many kids were brought up by a single mother, I was brought up by a single dad, so that was interesting. My father was great. He was about the arts, music lessons and ballet lessons among other things. He would buy my clothes, so I was able to gain a keen appreciation of clothes, especially shoes. I guess it was somewhat, what you would call a regular upbringing for a city kid.

B: Who has been the greatest influence in your life that has impacted the man/woman you are today? 

Well, I guess I would have to split it between two people. My dad and my grandmother — my grandmother was my dad’s mom. My parents separated and divorced when I was a kid, and my father and I moved to the next block over from my grandmother’s. When I wasn’t at our house I was at my grandmother’s house. My dad liked to cook and my grandmother liked to cook, so I would sit in the kitchen and I would be like my dad’s little sous chef. I was the person cutting up the onions and the garlic and the peppers. With my grandmother I didn’t have to do all of that, I would sit in the kitchen and we would gossip. Those two people were fundamentally the people who helped make me the person I am today.

Question 2:

a. Can you tell us of your job/education experience prior to what you’re doing now?

Actually, I think it all sort of blended in as I started to look back and reflect on my career and how I got to this point. As I previously stated, taking piano and cello lessons, as well as dance classes and doing artistic things in general. my dad used to play dictionary games with me and that was where I developed my love of vocabulary and so forth. In High-school I was what you might call a drama nerd, so I was in all the plays and improv and I would win because this was what I did. All of these factors sort of lead me to where I am now. I competed when I was in the military and I would win. There was an MC category because I can’t sing, and I don’t dance, but I can tell a joke and I can introduce acts and sort of improv. These are the kinds of things that really, I guess, lead me to the path of discovering the field of Mass Communications. My undergraduate and graduate degrees are actually in business with a Human Resources concentration.

b. What was the most memorable point at that job/school?

There were so many, but I think traveling to Europe was one of my most memorable experiences. When I first joined the service I was really doing it for the G.I. bill benefits, so I wouldn’t have to have a whole mountain of debt after I finally found my way and finished college. I was a non-overseas volunteer. I didn’t really care about traveling, I just wanted to get the benefits. I started to talk to other military people since I was in the military and they were talking about these places they’ve been and these exciting adventures and so, I thought wow and I’m a non-overseas volunteer, so I went over to personnel and I changed my what they refer to as a dream sheet and there were only so many places I could go because of my work. Every hospital does not have an OR and the top choice on my dream sheet was Spain. I actually got orders to Spain. When I got those orders and then I actually landed there and started to experience the culture of Spain, the people and food, it was astounding, it was eye-opening.

Question 3.

a. Is this where you thought you’d be 5 or so years ago?

Absolutely not, and actually as a matter of fact I had that conversation with my husband recently. I said: you know what, if there is a hereafter, after-life my dad must be beaming because to have the kind of job that I have, I’m a professor at a university and I’ve been so far, including this year, 18 years. I’m teaching what I do for a living and it’s a lovely lifestyle. The time off is fantastic. Interacting with the students, helping an entirely new generation of people find their way professionally and personally, I never would’ve dreamed that I’d have such a job.

b. What informed your decision on doing what you’re doing now?

The way you put that question was perfection. For me it has been a gradual practice and I will tell you how it started. It took me so long to finish undergrad. It took me nearly 20 years, being here and there. While I was an undergrad I was still stationed overseas and I was taking classes on base but they were European teachers. This took place at the University of Maryland, in what they would refer to as the overseas division. I think they call it their global campus now. I had a teacher, her name was Mrs. Ranley and Mrs. Ranley and her husband had been expatriate Americans, teaching all over Europe and living there.

By the time I met her she was older, she was in her seventies already, almost where I am now. Bless her, Mrs. Ranley was teaching Greek mythology and the way she taught it, it was like Zeus and Hera and all the Greek gods had been her next door neighbors. I thought to myself, here’s a woman who’s older, her health wasn’t perfect at the time, but she was still able to work and make a living. She was still able to be out there interacting with people of all ages, and she was so fascinating. She had written a book and so forth. In my head I thought, if I get a masters at some point I would do that. I would love to be able to do that, so over time what really happened here I started teaching as an adjunct just to make some extra money.

I thought to myself instead of trying to get a job at the mall, let me do what I do for a living. I started out adjunct teaching, my full time job was working as a public affairs officer at an agency. Then I started adjunct teaching business courses for Wilmington University, and then Wesley College, and then Delaware State University, so over a period of five years I was teaching at three different schools. I taught with Wilmington the entire five years and then Wesley I was teaching there two years, and then I taught at Delaware State over the summer. At that point one of my colleagues, now retired Dr. Marcia Taylor told me that there were some openings. Openings for adjunct and for full time, I applied and I got accepted.

Question 4.

A. What are your plans for the future?

Well, you know you don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ve been podcasting and now I have this radio show on In Da Mix radio. It’s called Planet Ava; Planet Ava actually started as a podcast in 2015, so it’s had all different kinds of lives and iterations, but now it’s a full-fledged radio station online. I find it ironic that you know, at my age, I have a show on a hip-hop radiostation. In any case, they’re telling me my analytics are on the rise, I’m getting numbers, I never had numbers before! My goal is to continue teaching at Delaware State because I love it as long as I have the energy, inclination, and they keep signing my contract. I would also like to have my show, Planet Ava blow up, and I also want to be able to make more money because I would like a condo on the beach!

Question 5.

A. What kind of advice would you offer a student, who is undecided on his or her career path?

Well, everyone’s path is different, but I would provide the same advice I give my students all the time. Which is to put yourself in the way of opportunity, and as the way the old expression goes, closed mouths don’t get fed. You have to network and you have to put in the time. I can’t tell you how many different opportunities I’ve taken advantage of for, like, an election night, I would be working as a stringer for the news agencies, and you know, phoning in election results and so forth—volunteering with local organizations in order to meet people that I would not normally become acquainted with in my course of life. We have to put ourselves in different positions, put ourselves in the way of opportunities, and those opportunities are definitely here at Delaware State University. Every day I’m walking around, and I’m practically tripping over opportunities for the students. Also don’t turn down work if you don’t have to; if you think it through and it’s something that is good, and it works for your resume, then do it, and I think that formula tends to work pretty well.

Question 6.

A.What are your hobbies or extracurricular activities?

Well, interestingly, mass comm is a lifestyle in addition to being a profession. Most of the people that I know I met through my work at some point in time or another. In addition to my mass comm lifestyle, I also love movies, through that, I was able to teach cinema and society. So it-all goes together. I love to travel; still, I love cooking; I’m a keen gardener, although I like to joke that as much as I like nature, I’m afraid of nature. I’m afraid of bugs and the little beasts, I don’t like frogs and creatures like that, but I’m planting my garden, and I’ve already ordered some plants for the summer. Additionally, I love to exercise, I may not look like it, but I like to; I love pilates and JP, and I take Tai Chi, I also enjoy walking too. I enjoy listening to audiobooks,as well as decorating and clothes. I have many different interests, occasionally I pursue them for a long period of time, and then like some creative people, I’ll do something for a minute. That’s pretty much how I am.

Question 7.

A. Let us end this interview with a memorable quote from you.

I do actually have one, and I know it’s offbeat, but in my cinema and society class, I screened the Mel Brooks film –Blazing Saddles — last week. One of the students was talking about one of the characters, and he said one of the characters reminded him of the story of Mice and Men. One of my favorite quotes from that is, of course, the best-laid plans of mice and men. I actually altered it, the best-laid plans of mice, men, and women kind of deal. There we are, we are busy making plans like John Lennon said, and then life happens. I know that may not sound terribly encouraging, but that’s what comes to mind at this point.

Professor Perrine is the embodiment of taking advantage of every opportunity that presents itself. Her dedication to adapting to the environment around her and learning new things not only presents itself in her private life, but in her career as well. This dedication is appreciated greatly by the Delaware State University community.

Categories: Interview

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