Ending a journey that began in 1989 when he arrived at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, on May 12, 2022, SC&I Part-Time Lecturer Franklin Bridges will cross the stage at Jersey Mike’s Arena (formerly the RAC), with his doctorate – the fourth degree he’s earned from SC&I.
This is how his four degrees add up: Bridges earned two bachelor’s degrees from SC&I in 1994, in Communication and Journalism and Media Studies, then an MCIS (now the Master of Communication and Media) in 2010, and a Ph.D. in Media Studies in 2022.
Asked how he has been able to stay focused on work and school for so many years, Bridges said, “There is very little in life that people can’t walk away from. For example, I am a runner. I could easily decide to stop running and walk home, and similarly, there were times I was stressed enough that I could have dropped out of the Ph.D. program. But I kept focusing on my goal to become a tenure-track faculty member conducting research and teaching. Tapping into the excitement I felt pursuing my goal helped me keep going.”
In 1989 when Frank arrived at Rutgers, he said he did not intend to become an academic. In fact, he said he was focused on his career as a musician, and he was also deeply into the New Brunswick music scene in the 1990s. So into it, he said, that it took him 6 years to earn his bachelor’s degrees from SC&I.
While today it isn’t possible to double-major at SC&I, back then it was, but even Bridges, despite the high number of courses he took at SC&I, was only able to earn his second bachelor’s degree because of a change to the Journalism program’s requirements.
“I had three credits to go to earn a bachelor’s degree in Communication when I left Rutgers in 1992 to work and focus on music. Then a couple of years later, I decided I wanted to finish my college degree, so I took the three credits at Middlesex County Community College. Those credits enabled me to earn my first bachelor’s degree in Communication from SC&I. I then wondered if I had enough credits to also earn a bachelor’s degree in Journalism. I returned to SC&I to ask, and I found out that because the journalism program had dropped the requirement for a three-credit internship, I did have enough credits. So in 1994, I earned my first two degrees from SC&I.”
Bridges explained it made sense for him to take both Communication and Journalism courses because he wanted to work either in public relations for the music industry or as a journalist covering music.
Ultimately though, he didn’t pursue either of those paths. He said he had been creating print designs for so many years for t-shirts for bands, record album covers, and posters and flyers to promote concerts, that his skills as a graphic designer led him to a long career as a professional graphic designer.
Over the years, he worked as a graphic designer for the Princeton Dance Book Company in Pennington, NJ; at ITC, a medical device company in Edison, NJ, where he ultimately became the art director; then a boutique design firm where he created materials for events and sales incentive trips for medical companies. He then landed his last job as a print buyer – at Rutgers. He worked in the Rutgers University Creative Services where he combined his graphic design and project management skills. While working full-time at Rutgers he earned his third degree from SC&I, an MCIS (now the MCM).
Bridges said while he earned his Ph.D. degree he began to teach as a part-time lecturer, and he also worked as a freelance designer for SC&I. When he decided he wanted to earn a doctorate, to be able to conduct research and teach full-time, he said he did stop working and focused on his Ph.D. classes for three years straight. Then, he said he began to teach so much that his work on his Ph.D. slowed down a bit.
Bridges said during those years he also never lost interest in the music business, and he wove that passion into his work as a student. For example, his doctoral dissertation is “Analysis of a Local Music Scene’s Record Labels as a Network of Resistance to the Demise of the Vinyl Record.”
Asked for any advice he has for prospective students at any level, he said having a clearly defined goal and focusing on “Why you are doing this” really helps. “If you want it, it’s totally possible,” he said.
Reflecting upon the many years he has spent working and studying while also raising two children, he said, “As I look around at home now, I do see that I have a lot of work to do on the house. However, if I’d painted my house 10 years ago, I’d have to paint it again now – it wouldn’t have lasted. But now I have a degree that will last. While it was a daunting task and a lot of work, my Ph.D. will stay with me and help me reach my goals for the rest of my life. Franklin Bridges, Ph.D. sounds good to me, and I do feel I have really earned it!”
Then he quickly added – only half-joking – that he has yet to earn a Master of Information or a Master of Health Communication and Information from SC&I, and he still thinks about earning a Master of Fine Arts in graphic design, so he might yet be back on stage at Jersey Mike’s Arena, or somewhere else in the future, earning a fifth, sixth, or seventh degree.