by Julia Ernst
Though her schedule isn’t as packed as Michelle Obama’s, Dr. Myra Gutin, Rider’s “first-lady expert,” has been busy since the inauguration of the nation’s 44th president.
Gutin, a communication professor who specializes in political communication, has been a first lady historian for many years. Recently, she has done interviews and hosted programs for E! Entertainment Television, CNN and ABC.
The newest first lady has kept Gutin busier than most other presidential spouses.
“I’ve done more media interviews about Michelle Obama than I have about any other first lady, at least at this point,” Gutin said. “I’ve gotten inquiries from all over the world.”
Media outlets in Italy, France and Russia are a few of the countries Gutin has received requests from, besides the many interviews she has done in the U.S. She spoke to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, The New York Times and several online media services.
“I was part of the inaugural ball coverage team for ABCnews.com,” Gutin said. “I did the first lady historical background information.”
When President Obama was elected in November, 2008, Michelle Obama said her role as a wife and a mother was her first priority. More recently, however, she has started discussing what her platforms may be, which include helping military families find a balance in their lives when husbands or wives return from serving overseas.
Though some more formal agenda items seem to be taking shape lately, Gutin says that, to a degree, much of what Michelle Obama will focus on remains to be seen.
“At this point, it’s just wait and see,” Gutin said. “I think she’s bright, energetic and creative. I certainly think she’s more than capable of handling it. I think she’s going to be a great first lady.”
Dr. Jonathan Millen, chair of the Department of Communication and Journalism, said that Gutin’s extensive knowledge of first ladies and political communication is a great asset to the department.
“The Department of Communication and Journalism is extremely fortunate to have such a rich and diverse array of scholars and educators,” Millen said. “In particular, Dr. Gutin is widely recognized as a leading scholar on U.S. first ladies. Her expertise not only informs our classrooms, but also helps to raise the profile of the faculty. Her many media appearances in which she shares her unique insights are invaluable to the academic reputation of the department.”
Junior Kenneth Jacobs took Gutin’s Making of the President 2008 class last fall.
“The best thing Dr. Gutin did was to tell us about all of her experiences, especially her recent experience with first lady Laura Bush,” he said. “She combined her knowledge of politics and communication to explain and interpret why certain presidential candidates won and others didn’t. It definitely enhances the educational experience.”
Though the schedule that Gutin keeps can get quite hectic at times, she enjoys her work.
“I’m having a great time,” she said. “There are so many rewards that you get that you don’t anticipate.”