Picture a little boy spreading a newspaper across the floor, its pages turned up to allow him to read the words and see what is going on in the world. He's not quite big enough to hold up the paper. Professor Marc Armstrong, interim director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, recalled his earliest memory of journalism.
Many years have passed since he needed to spread a newspaper across the floor to read it. Despite pursuing educational interests that led him in a different direction, journalism was always something Armstrong has enjoyed.
"I've been reading newspapers for a long time," Armstrong said. "They're a marvelous way to spend time on the issues."
Educated in the field of geography, he came to The University of Iowa as a faculty member in 1984 and became a professor in the Department of Geography in 1998. He has been the Departmental Executive Officer of the Department of Geography since 2000 and his experience in administration for the UI is vast.
Toward the end of spring 2007, Armstrong was presented a new role very different from his role in geography. When former director Pam Creedon decided to step down, the School of Journalism had very little time to find a replacement.
"The School decided to have an interim director rather than conduct a national search," Armstrong said. "It was a surprise to me."
His administrative fellow position with the Department of Geography was scheduled to end in June 2007 when Dean Linda Maxson of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences approached him about the director's position with the J-MC School.
"As chair of the [Department of Geography], Professor Armstrong had already proven himself to be a very capable administrator and a faculty leader," Maxson said.
Armstrong was more than willing to take the position. Subscribing to dozens of publications, he was eager to work with professional journalists and journalism students.
Adjusting to many things was a part of his new role. Since the J-MC School is much larger than the Department of Geography, there were many more students and faculty members to deal with on a daily basis. Armstrong said the more people a person works with from an administrative standpoint, the more likely a problem is to arise.
A challenge for Armstrong was learning about a discipline in which he had very little professional experience. "I'm easily bored, so I don't mind learning at this point in my life," Armstrong said. "I could have just walked in here, did all the administration [duties] and not gotten involved in the intellectual mix, but I decided I wanted to do that because I enjoy it."
Assisting the School in finding a permanent director is Armstrong's main goal. Depending on how well the search for a permanent director goes, he could be finished serving as interim director at the end of this academic year. As a tenured professor in geography, he will return to his original role as soon as the permanent director arrives.
As for what his future holds beyond geography and beyond his short time with the J-MC School, Armstrong can't say where he will end up. "If opportunities present themselves that appear to be interesting to me, I may pursue those opportunities," Armstrong said. "I don't know what might lie out there for me."
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