Todd Terrell is a ’83 Ball State alumnus with a background in Telecommunications which led him to a later career at an energy company. Years in the field of broadcasting influenced his current career at Southern Company as their Communications Director. We sat down with Todd to reflect upon his experience at Ball State and what happened after CCIM.
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What kind of student were you at Ball State?
I was what I would consider to be an average student when I got here. I was not really prepared for or ready for college. I came here with the same approach that I had with high school. I did a lot of my work in the classroom and got it finished and I tried not to have a lot of outside of the classroom work. That doesn’t really work at college. I don’t mind saying I was on academic probation after one semester. I really realized I had to put more attention and effort into my studies here and classes. After two years, I was really churning through the business program, but I still didn’t know what I wanted to do with that in life. As it turned out, somebody asked me to take a job shift at one of the radio stations in the basement of the dormitory here. We used to have little five-watt radio stations. They were in need of people to help with those because there weren’t many TCOMM students in the dorm I was in. I got a lot of positive feedback from people about how much they enjoyed listening to my programs. I’ll never forget going home after two years of college and telling my parents that I was going to change my major because I really wanted to be in radio. They were surprised but supportive. I am now the Communications Director for a Fortune-500 company. One of the top 200 in the U.S., a very large company. All of that happened because of my experience here at Ball State. I was given the opportunity to learn and grow.
Did you have a favorite place on campus?
I really liked the duck pond. I liked to go there and enjoy the fall days and the spring days, not so fun in the winter. My fondest memories, I lived in what is now the Burris schools residence hall, I’m not sure what they even call it now, back then it was Wagner hall. I lived in Burkhardt. Just a block and half away, behind Beneficence, is the Ball Gym. All winter long, my friends and I would play pick-up basketball at Ball Gym. We did that four or five nights a week. I spent a lot of time in the gym with friends playing pick-up basketball. I remember that a lot. I loved to be outside and this is a great campus with beautiful green space around the Quadrangle.
What was your best or worst memory at Ball State?
It’s hard to pick just one, while I was here I did get focused on the academics and I had a job. It probably wasn’t my favorite or best memory, but I had a job. I had responsibilities and had an obligation to my parents to try and help with paying my own way. I worked at Bracken Library. That’s very memorable. It’s hard to think of a worst memory. I was playing in an intramural softball game and I wrecked my knee and had to go to several doctors. I was in a walking cast in the winter time for about six to eight weeks. That was probably a moment where you can get down and get depressed with yourself. You’re slipping on the ice and working on crutches. That was another memorable time. I honestly loved it here, I had a great time here. It’s hard to pin a worst experience on anything here. I had really great instructors, I had really great friends, I had a good social and support network. I think every student needs that if they’re going to succeed here.
Is there an instructor that really stood out to you?
There were a couple really. There was Dr. Tomlinson and Dr. Derrell Wible. I know a lot of people say that about Derrell. They were people that had real world experience and they turned that bookwork into real world experience. I probably wouldn’t even be where I am today if not for a couple of long conversations with Derrell Wible about where I wanted to go with my career. When it was time for me to set up an internship, I talked to him and sat down with him. He made phone calls for me. I really wanted to be at a radio station, but he got me an internship at a TV station. That TV station kept me and hired me. I’ll always have fond memories of Dr. Wible. Dr. Tomlinson came from the radio era, before television. He taught all the radio classes that I was learning when we did sound effects with horses clomping down the street. I mean it seems crazy to think that’s what we were learning back then. I enjoyed the hands-on work, part of the diploma and the degree, and I enjoyed the book work too.
If you were to meet your freshman self, what would you say?
I would tell him a couple things considering I really struggled in my first semester here, academically. I probably would have told him, you have an obligation and a responsibility to yourself. You can fail but you can’t have anyone else fail around you. Success is going to be driven internally. If you don’t have the fortitude and the wear to cinch up your britches and get after the hard work, that’s on you, that will be your responsibility. The main thing really is that I didn’t come here with the right, serious academic student approach. On the other hand, I had a very large social network. I had a lot of places I could go and people I could have fun with. There was always a good time to be had. I would probably tell myself to manage that. Make sure you understand who the people are that you are with and that those people are interested in you as much as they are in themselves. They want you to succeed and they have an interest in you completing the journey here.
How did the Telecommunications program equip you with critical skills to make you successful?
My first job is directly related to all the experience I gained at Ball State. I would not have landed that first job if I didn’t know how to run a camera, didn’t know how to run a soundboard, if I didn’t know how to set up a live shot, if I didn’t have the journalism classes to have an eye for composition inside a camera. You’re seeing a big scene here, but whatever the viewers are going to see is what you capture. You’ve got to get it all. I wouldn’t have gotten on the career path that I was on if not for all the prep work that I got here at Ball State. I remember a class where they asked us to produce a commercial. There used to be a wine, Gallo Wine, and we were asked to do a Gallo Wine commercial. Mine was so bad, it was just terrible. A lot of students have a hard time taking feedback. The professor pulled me aside and told me how I could do better in the class. I appreciated the fact that he took a moment and he didn’t embarrass me in front of the classroom. That always stayed with me. Every job I ever had and the best bosses that I’ve ever had approached feedback that way for me. My first experience with that was right here at Ball State.
What is your proudest moment in your professional career?
My proudest moment would probably be something we’ve done as a team. We have received a lot of awards and accolades for our work. Those are probably my proudest moments, things we are able to accomplish as a team.