Professor leaves academia to pursue a career as a violinist

After six years in academia, Patrick Thelen leaves it all behind to move across the country for an unorthodox career shift to music


Photo by Brittany Cruz-Fejeran

Patrick Thelen, assistant journalism professor plays the violin near Scripps Cottage on Dec. 7. Thelen said of all the places at SDSU, he is going to miss walking this path on his way to his classes.

by Amina Idoui, Staff Writer

Patrick Thelen is set to retire from academia at the end of this fall  semester. His next endeavor will be a pursuit into the world of music, as he embarks upon a new journey as a violinist.  

Thelen was a tenure-track assistant professor in the School for Journalism & Media Studies at San Diego State University.

Thelen, born and raised in Chile, completed a bachelor’s degree in history in 2007 and a masters in journalism in 2008. He worked in journalism from 2008-10, ultimately pivoting to a career in public relations, where he completed a second master in public relations at the University of Southern California in 2012.

Thelen found himself back in Chile working as a professional in the field at a top PR firm  in the nation’s capital, Santiago in 2014. He began teaching while simultaneously acquiring his Ph.D. in communications at the University of Florida in 2016. In 2019, he eventually found his way to SDSU.

His passion and deep knowledge shone through in the classes he taught. Students truly felt a positive impact and enjoyed coming to his classes.

Patrick Thelen, assistant journalism professor plays the violin in front of Hepner Hall on Dec. 7. (Photo by Brittany Cruz-Fejeran )

Elle Seeler, a junior journalism major, developed a close relationship with Thelen in his time at SDSU. As the faculty advisor for the PR club on campus and student of his, she regularly connected with Thelen through office hours.

“He has always been personable and gave me very valuable advice,” Seeler said. “He provided a lot of insight and now I have more clarity on what I want to do with my career.”

Seeler, among many other students, will feel Thelen’s absence in the wake of his retirement.

“I am sad that he is leaving but know he is going to do great things” Seeler said.

Kyle Hecht, a senior business management major, took his introductory public relations class and spoke to the value and wisdom Thelen imparts.

“Great framework and structure of the class. Excellent delivery of the lecture and excellent teaching methods,” Hecht said. “I think he cares about us outside the classroom too.”

Thelen is also involved in research endeavors in public relations at SDSU, particularly internal communications. 

“I really fell in love with internal communications and how integral happy [and] engaged employees are to an organization and that’s what my research is focused on now,” Thelen said.

But Thelen’s first love was the violin. 

He started playing at six years old and by the age of 14, he had completed eight years of professional music training at a conservatory in Chile.

After three years of further advanced training beyond the conservatory, he stopped. Caught in a divide between sports and music, peer pressure from friends in soccer contributed to the decision to quit music.

“I thought maybe music isn’t what I want to do with my life. Playing the violin was never really cool with my friends,” Thelen said. “So I stopped for many, many, many years.”

And Thelen did stop, until a pandemic hit the world by storm in 2020 and everything stopped. Only then did Thelen turn back to his first love.

Patrick Thelen, assistant journalism professor plays the violin near Scripps Cottage on Dec. 7. Thelen said of all the places at SDSU, he is going to miss walking this path on his way to his classes. (Photo by Brittany Cruz-Fejeran)

“When COVID came around I realized how much I enjoyed doing this,” said Thelen. 

At a comfortable point in his career, up for tenure and having achieved great success in a variety of fields, Thelen decided to take a leap.

“This was a decision of courage. The easiest thing for me to have done was stay where I am,” Thelen said. “I could have played violin part time but I like to give things my all. I like what I do now. But I like music more”.  

Thelen will be moving to Florida come the end of fall semester with his wife, his daughter and his trusty electric silver violin as he explores the musical world. 

“I am usually a very structured person. This is the first time in my life I don’t have a plan. I’m excited,” Thelen said. “Life is to do the things you love and there’s no point in being scared.”

Patrick Thelen’s future musical endeavors can be followed through his Youtube and Tiktok.

Editor’s Note: Amina Idoui was enrolled in Thelen’s JMS 480 this fall semester.