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Mike Mueller: From Syracuse to TV 10 to DC Schools to the Department of Energy ...

And to fatherhood and husbandhood -- Mike and Sarah with Franklin, Emmy,

and Clancy

… changing directions in a complex world

At one time, a college graduate would accept a job upon leaving academia and work in that field for the next 35 to 40 years.

However, the 21st Century has presented young people with some complex challenges in that area and has significantly altered that narrative.

Just ask Mike Mueller, a native of Scranton, Pa. and a Scranton High School graduate who had earned a prestigious spot in the Syracuse University Newhouse School of Public Communications, one of the top academic communications schools in the U.S.

Mike is the son of Mike Sr. and Elaine Mueller and one of three children: An older sister, Tracy Greene, and younger brother, Max Mueller.

Well-known in west-central Pennsylvania as a television journalist from 2006 until 2010. Mike has juggled a variety of considerations in his personal life and in his career.

Mike’s hope: To be a sports anchor

The world of professional communications has changed dramatically in the past 22 years since the start of the 21st Century, and many means of communication for the 1900s like newspapers are considered by the younger generations to be antiques, ancient vestiges akin to the Egyptian pyramids.

For those universities and colleges that used to feature old-style journalism, the academic leaders have been forced to adapt to a curriculum to address those needs.

When Mike graduated from Syracuse in 2004, he envisioned himself as becoming a sports anchor on a television station or network. However, he said that he was at heart a “story-teller,” and while he is now telling those stories in a different way with the U.S. Department of Energy than he did as a sports reporter, his circuitous journey has led to a much happier life today because his priorities also include being a great husband and a father to two small children.

This is part of the story of the odyssey of a young man in a challenging and changing environment.

Life at WTAJ: Great, but personal life would be challenging

Mike worked for two years as a news reporter at WHSV-TV in Harrisonburg, Va. in the Staunton bureau, but during that time, he also tried to cobble together a sports resume to pursue his dream. A former cross-country and track runner in both high school and college, he wanted to create some exciting video and text that would guarantee him a reporting spot in sports journalism.

That led him to WTAJ-TV in Altoona, Pa., and he cherished his time there,

My main goal after participating in sports in high school and college since I ran cross-country and track in both high school and college was to be a sports anchor, but that is a very competitive field.

I was fortunate to become a sport reporter at WTAJ under Kellie Goodman for four years. I really loved my time in Altoona. Being in Altoona meant that I was close to my home in Scranton. It was an easy trip home.

It was great covering Penn State and the Steelers, and I obviously learned a lot. But I really loved the high school sports scene and telling those stories, too. And I loved interacting with the community.

Interview with Mike, February 2022

That was where I first met Mike. We talked often and I enjoyed our conversations. He was personable and related so well to people everywhere. I could tell that he had the potential to go places, but Mike also realized that his chosen career path would require some sacrifices.

Mike once told me during those years about losing a bet about a high school game to a person in the emergency field, He had to pay by being tasered.

And that was a bet that he will never again make in his life.

The hours he had to work, and love, led him to reassess his career goals.

As Mike was coming to the end of his contract with WTAJ, he realized that love may sometimes trump career goals. That assessment was challenging for him, but it has proven to have been a major step both professionally and personally.

Seeking balance in life

Mike had met Sarah Parsons at Syracuse where she was also a student at the Newhouse School. After dating for a time in college, Mike graduated in 2004 and Sarah two years later. They went in different geographical directions in their professional lives, but then renewed that friendship when he was in Altoona. She was working in New York City, and for a year and a half, they engaged in a long-distance relationship.

However, Mike realized that if the relationship was to go beyond that, he had to assess his career path for the long-term since the hours were not always conducive for relationships or families,

The life of a television sportscaster is not set for that. I was a weekend sportscaster and coming in 3:30 and working until 11:30 or 12 while working weekends covering Penn State and St. Francis.

I questioned when I would see my kids and wife. I was hoping for some more work and life balance while still telling stories.

Interview with Mike, February 2022

Mike and Sarah at Syracuse

Huge career change

Mike and Sarah eventually both decided to move to Washington, D.C., and that led him to another interesting period of growth over the next four years.

He decided to become a teacher, and he accomplished that and eventually worked in the D.C. public schools. That may have seemed to be a culture shock at first, but he enjoyed working with young people and hearing their stories, while also telling them to a degree,

We had a lot of educators in my family. During that time, I was offered a job in Knoxville as a sports anchor, but I decided to get away from it and pursue a career where I could also be involved in sports.

So, I decided to become a teacher. My sister {Tracy] is a phenomenal teacher in Maryland, so I went home to study for the Praxis. I applied for a teaching fellowship in D.C. and hoped to get in. My wife was working for a company with an office in D.C.

I moved to D.C. and took a fellowship and became a special education teacher for four years in the city. It gave me a renewed perspective on education in general. I had to work very hard, but I loved the kids who were sadly thrown by the wayside.

However, the system was frustrating for me. A lot of the special education kids were not being challenged. I worked with them in grades six through eight, and they went from not doing any work to being excited about school. But, it did not seem to be the right fit.

If I just taught, it was really rewarding, but I was struggling with the system.

Interview with Mike, February 2022

Mike the Teacher

Return to communications in a digital world

While teaching, he did some work with the school’s social media and engaged his skills by writing some stories, and that led him back to a desire to return to work in the communications world. However, after being out of the field for a few years, he had to do some free-lance work to rebuild his resume.

He eventually was hired by a group that did contract work with the Department of Energy, and that led him to his current position as a digital content specialist,

Mike manages all digital communications for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Nuclear Energy. Mike is responsible for the digital content strategy, blogs, social media, video production, newsletters and web analytics. He launched the office's Facebook, Twitter (2) and LinkedIn pages, in addition to starting NE's monthly newsletter.

Mike consistently grows these channels through data analytics to stay hyper focused on their targeted audiences and has achieved 18 million organic impressions in FY19 through his digital strategy. To date, he has quadrupled NE web traffic over the last two years, increasing traffic from 20,000 to more than 82,000 average pageviews.

Mike’s LinkedIn bio, 2022

So, Mike is still telling stories, and the only change is that the narrative is focused more on vital issues like energy instead of the more enjoyable ones like those in sports.

Mike is a digital content strategist with more than 15 years of experience in creative storytelling. He’s the ultimate utility player with a diverse background in broadcasting, video production, blogging, social media strategy and public relations. From developing content strategies to launching new websites, Mike excels in meeting deadlines and taking projects through the finish line.

Mike’s LinkedIn bio, 2022

Mike the professional

Spending more time with family

The change that Mike Mueller has undertaken in his life is illustrative for those young people who face similar challenges as he has with balancing life on a professional and personal level.

Now, he and Sarah have two children, Emmy (Emerson), who is four, and Franklin who is four months old. The other family is Clancy, a nine-year-old Westie.

Sarah is a still working in communications as a senior editor at World Resources Institute, an environmental non-profit.

The teaching job led him back to a normal life balance where he can spend more time with his wife and children. He still misses the sports, but making changes overall can led to a much happier, balanced life.

Mike and Fatherhood -- and Clancy

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