By: Dr. Timothy R. Gleason
2014-2015 was an exciting academic year to kick off my term as department chair. As one administrator kept telling me, it has been an awful year to become chair. My favorite piece of advice is one I learned from the biography of Urban Meyer, the football coach of The Ohio State University Buckeyes, “Don’t tell me the problem. Tell me the solution.”
The biggest news in Wisconsin higher education has been Governor Scott Walker’s $250 million cut to the UW System. The rationale for such a devastating cut is that the University of Wisconsin System is flush with waste. I wish I knew where the budget fat was hidden. Journalism has been running one course short of its usual offerings because of a previous budget cut. For 2015-2016, Journalism has already canceled three course offerings as departments are expected to run leaner. That’s one of the tactics undertaken by the department and college to achieve a solution. Additionally, tenure protections and shared governance have been removed from state statute. In brief, faculty are no longer protected to seek the truth and make recommendations for the betterment of students and even society. Tenure is not about guaranteed lifelong employment. It is earned after years of rigorous effort, and it enables faculty to report data and findings on controversial topics and to protect students from the fly-by-night trends and profiteering at their expense.
Fortunately, there is also good news. One effort the department is excited about is the implementation of a Public Relations major in Fall 2015. After a two-year development and review process led by Dr. Julie Henderson, the UW Board of Regents approved our new major in April 2015. We expect increased enrollment because majors are more appealing to students than emphases, and a major is easier to find in UW’s areas of study listing than an emphasis. This is the only PR major in the UW System, so we expect to see enrollment growth.
Journalism’s enrollment also benefit from continued participation in the Interactive Web Management (IWM) major, which offers B.A., B.S. and B.B.A. degrees through the interdisciplinary program run by Journalism, Computer Science, Information Systems and Marketing. IWM students take at least three Journalism courses, and many are minoring in Journalism.
A number of curricular changes were approved this year. Writing for the Media became a prerequisite for the New and Emerging Media course. Introduction to Journalism and Mass Communication has been changed to Introduction to Media: News, Public Relations and Advertising. This course will become part of UW Oshkosh’s University Studies Program. Two new math and statistics courses are available to meet our requirement in this area, while the College of Business’ economics and accounting courses no longer count. This change will make it easier for students to enroll and complete the quantitative literacy requirement, and quite possibly, lead to dancing in the streets.
On the personnel front, Dr. Sara Steffes Hansen earned tenure. She has been promoted from assistant professor to associate professor after completing the six-year tenure process. As some of you know, Dr. Hansen originally joined Journalism as a part-time lecturer, earned a doctorate at UW Madison, and returned to UW Oshkosh as a tenure-track faculty member.
Dr. Julie Henderson retired after more than two decades of service to the university. She has left the department with the creation of a public relations major, CEPR certification, and a successful PRSSA chapter that students renamed after her. She has repeatedly told us she is moving out of Oshkosh because it is too warm down here. Her colleagues and students wish her well as she returns to Minnesota.
Journalism unsuccessfully conducted a faculty search to replace Dr. Jin Kyun Lee, who returned to South Korea in January 2014 for family reasons. The university is considering Journalism’s request to seek Dr. Henderson’s replacement during 2015-2016 with the goal of a new hire starting in Fall 2016.
Faculty and staff continue creating the reaccreditation report in advance of a site team visit by the Accrediting Council for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in October 2015. Journalism is also using this process for its program review, which is required of every university department on a rotating basis. This is an opportunity for the department to receive productive feedback. Journalism faculty and staff have begun a SWOT analysis (strengths-weaknesses-opportunities-threats analysis) as part of the review of its strategic plan. While we have already revised our vision statement, mission statement, and core values, Journalism remains committed to providing a liberal arts education along with professional values and competencies. The foundation of this education remains the teaching of writing, despite the many inside jokes I’ve heard that I would try to convert us to the church of photojournalism.
If you haven’t returned to campus and Oshkosh for many years, swing by to see how we have changed. The department moved into Sage Hall in 2011. UW Oshkosh built an Alumni Welcome and Conference Center on Pearl Avenue, the street that leads you to Sage. A few minutes away is Oshkosh’s summer farmers’ market on Main Street, which was named one of the 101 best in 2014. You can extend your stay overnight by checking into the downtown Best Western Premier Waterfront Hotel and receive an alumni discount. The hotel’s ownership includes the UW Oshkosh Foundation. UW Oshkosh’s new chancellor, Dr. Andrew Leavitt, is a frequent visitor to university sporting and cultural events, so you never know when you will get the chance to meet our new campus leader. If you can’t visit this upcoming academic year, you will be pleased to know we are planning our 50th anniversary party during the 2018 Homecoming. Make sure you Save the Date: Oct. 26 & Oct. 27, 2018.