Carol Oukrop (Ph.D. 1969), a woman who has long had a passion to improve women’s status in the field of journalism education, is best known for co-authoring the first national study on the status of women in journalism education.
Oukrop knew she wanted to be a journalist at a young age. In the sixth grade, she realized she liked to write, and she became the editor of her school newspaper. “I never felt that I was creative enough for novels, but I knew I wanted to write,” Oukrop said.
After experiencing the newspaper and having a hand in yearbook writing, she was hooked. She earned a B.A. in journalism at the University of North Dakota, worked on newspapers and in public relations, and then began teaching and conducting research. Oukrop came to The University of Iowa in 1963 as a graduate student in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She received her M.A. in journalism, joined the Iowa faculty and worked toward her Ph.D., which she received in 1969. She said the university has helped her tremendously.
“One of the best things you learn is how little you knew,” Oukrop said. “It was a mind-expanding process that made me curious about a lot of things.”
Oukrop was the only female member on the 20+ journalism faculty when she taught at Iowa, which she said helped make her a feminist. She said that since she was a woman, she was automatically assigned the duties of secretary. This was one of several factors leading to the first study on the status of women in journalist education.
“We wanted women to have appropriate promotions and pay scale and to be on an equal playing field with men,” Oukrop said.
In 1972, colleague Ramona Rush and Oukrop conducted two studies on the status of women in journalism education. The first one was presented in a convention paper titled, “More Than You Ever Wanted to Know.” Thirty years later, the second study was included as a chapter in the book, Seeking Equality for Women in Journalism and Mass Communication: A 30-Year Report.
Today, there are more women than men majoring in journalism and mass communication at U.S. colleges and universities. Thus it seems appropriate, Oukrop said, to continue to fight for equality for women teaching those students. While women are continuing to increase their numbers, she said, in their follow-up study men continued to dominate at the higher ranks. More than 80 percent of professors are men.
After earning her Ph.D. at the UI, Oukrop joined the faculty at Kansas State University. It was a rural setting and something she really wanted.
“I never liked big cities,” Oukrop said. “In Kansas I could get my work done during the week and then I could dance with the farmers on the weekend.”
She taught courses in editing, public relations, communication theory, journalism history and gender issues for women in the media at K-State for 33 years. She was the director of Kansas State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication for 11 of those years.
Oukrop retired in 2002. She spent two years finalizing publications on the status of women. She now volunteers at her church, ushers for plays and helps in other ways at the Manhattan Arts Center in Manhattan, Kansas. She still participates and helps with publications most recently one commemorating the 125th anniversary of her church.
Oukrop loved her career. She said it was never a money-making field, but one in which was impossible to be bored and if you go into it thinking that you’ll make an impact, most likely you will.
“Do what you enjoy and do it well,” Oukrop said. “People read what they enjoy and it is our job as journalists to help make it easier and more enjoyable for them.”