Published on February 7, 2013  

Michael Seaman, a 2012 communication studies alumnus, holds Samford’s indoor and outdoor pole vaulting records. He holds the Southern Conference outdoor vaulting record. He was a two-time All-American for Samford and won the university’s “Sampsy” award for best male athlete two years in a row.

To the extent that “make money and help people” is an effective answer to the usual question asked of recent graduates--“what are you going to do with that?”--Seaman can handle all comers. Only months after graduation, he sold a project he developed as a requirement for his major.

Since 2005, the Communication Studies Department’s senior workshop experience has given students the opportunity to apply the theories, research and skills they've gleaned from their coursework in the major. “Our focus is upon helping those who otherwise would likely not have access to communication training, so our students often work with the homeless, recovering addicts, victims of domestic violence, and middle and high schools in economically impoverished areas,” said department chair Rhonda Parker. “The material truly comes to life as they share their knowledge with others in the community.”

The senior workshop’s emphasis on service inspired Seaman to reach out to student athletes facing the complex world of college athletic recruitment. With Parker’s guidance, he developed an interactive project that drew upon his own experience in that world.

As a freshman vaulter at another university, but without a full scholarship, Seaman began to research the recruiting process—reading, talking with top coaches and developing an understanding of the transfer process. For his persistence, he was rewarded with a full scholarship to Samford.

When Seaman reached the workshop requirement for the communication studies major, he turned to what he knew so well. “I knew that I had learned a valuable bit of information about the recruiting process--information that every high school athlete would like to have so that they could market themselves to collegiate coaches,” he said.

In particular, Seaman said, “many high school athletes and parents think it's tough to market yourself to schools–if you are good you will be recruited.” Seaman knew that, in reality, coaches have little time seek out prospects, and he knew that effective communication is essential in reaching out to coaches. “I developed a workshop that taught high school athletes how to market themselves to colleges by first finding what they wanted in a university academically and athletically, then creating an athletic résumé and materials to present to universities,” he said. “Finally, I taught them how to communicate persuasively with collegiate coaches.”

Seaman said one of the parents who participated in his workshop—an employee of an E-book publisher–followed up with an offer to help him reach a larger audience by making the workshop content available online. That company eventually offered to buy Seaman’s project outright and film him leading the workshop. Seaman accepted, and his project now will help people throughout the country. “High school parents, athletes, and athletic departments will be able to sit in front of their computers and experience my workshop,” Seaman said, clearly still surprised at how quickly a Samford academic challenge has changed his life.

Many could rest comfortably on such laurels, but Seaman clearly isn’t the type. Since graduating, he has devoted himself to elite professional vaulting and now trains with 2004 Olympic gold medalist Tim Mack in Knoxville, Tenn. He also owns, selling handmade keepsakes, and further applies his education and passion on his own web site.
Samford is a leading Christian university offering undergraduate programs grounded in the liberal arts with an array of nationally recognized graduate and professional schools. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Samford enrolls 5,791 students from 49 states, Puerto Rico and 16 countries in its 10 academic schools: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy and public health. Samford fields 17 athletic teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference and ranks 6th nationally for its Graduation Success Rate among all NCAA Division I schools.