Thursday, November 11, 2010

Update on Texas A&M's Journalism Studies program

Dale Rice, head of Journalism Studies at Texas A&M, is doing some great work to raise the profile of the program on campus and off. For the FJSA reception Oct. 30, he gave us this great summary/update.

(My favorite fact here is that next year's course catalog will have 16 journalism courses, up from eight a year ago. But there is lots of good news contained below. Enjoy!)

The 2010-2011 academic year is off to a great start for Journalism Studies. Here are
some examples of our progress:
  • We’re continuing to raise the profile of Journalism Studies within the College of Liberal Arts and the university at large. We co-hosted, with American Studies, Pulitzer Prize winner Sonia Nazario in September. Her book, “Enrique’s Journey,” was selected by the college as this year’s Common Ground read for all incoming freshmen. Besides exposing a wide audience to an award-winning journalist, Sonia’s visit allowed time for her to spend several hours with journalism students, both in and out of classroom settings.
  • Our newly reformed student chapter of SPJ has been officially recognized by both the national organization and the university. SPJ members are working hard to recruit new folks and build the organization. For example, they are meeting next week to build sandwich boards to place on campus, one of the perks that come with being an official student organization.
  • We’re working to broaden the Journalism Studies program. We currently have six new course listings winding their way up the approval chain. They include five cross-listed courses (one of which is the blogging course I created with that purpose in mind) and a new course in political reporting. With two courses added to the books this year, we will have 16 journalism courses in the catalog next year, compared with eight a year ago.
  • I am working now with Charlie Madigan, a former journalist at the Chicago Tribune and now professor at Roosevelt University in Chicago to jointly teach a course in political reporting via videoconference, with half the students in the class from Roosevelt and half from A&M. It was the suggestion of Charles Middleton, president of Roosevelt, who I met when he was here as the keynote speaker for a conference on campus. We will launch the course in the 2012 election cycle, which should offer lots of great reporting opportunities for the students.
  • We are exploring with the university and Rick Dunham, the Washington Bureau chief for Hearst Newspapers, the possibility of placing a journalism student in Washington each semester as part of the Public Policy Internship Program. Working with Dunham, the students would report and write stories dealing with public policy issues for the Hearst wire.

Finally, on a personal note, I’m really excited to see interest growing in journalism on campus. I’m teaching a one-hour freshmen seminar on food writing, part of the university’s effort to provide a small-class setting for first-year students who are mostly in very large classes. On Wednesday, after class, two of the students stayed behind to discuss the program and said they were going to apply now. That’s what makes this job fulfilling: to see freshmen joining Journalism Studies because they’re interested in a career in the profession. In just a few years’ time, you are going to look at those students who came into the program early and made use of our expanded offerings to obtain a first-rate journalism education and you are going to be very proud of them. FJSA’s support of the program has been a critical factor in our rebuilding effort, and we can’t thank you enough for that.