Hello, UIowa SJMC Alumni!
I am delighted to be writing to you as the School's new director!
I started June 22 and continue to be encouraged and excited by the challenges and opportunities that confront a modern school of journalism and mass communication. I am particularly pleased to address you via Iowa Journalist, our School's flagship publication, our central showcase of the best work and activities of our students, alumni, staff, faculty, and friends. As you'll read about in these pages, we are initiating many changes in the School--in curriculum projects, outreach, and events. All of them focus on student engagement and enrichment.
Let me offer three anecdotes that I think illustrate our aspirations and accomplishments.
First, in my many discussions with you, our alumni, I consistently receive one piece of primary advice: Don't give up on teaching good writing. Indeed, as I tell my own students, there are some 300 million or so people on Facebook giving content away for free. If you want to be paid for it and stand out from the herd, your content will have to be extraordinarily better in quality, and I have full faith that our SJMC does as good a job as or even better than any in the country in training our students to be the best writers they can be. I was convinced of this when I found out that the Iowa SJMC equivalent of a large enrollment course that I taught at another university had many more and much more difficult writing assignments. In short, students and employers know that the Iowa brand means rigorous training in writing for all media, from marketing plans to feature stories to blog posts.
Second, earlier this semester, I was speaking to a student group to introduce myself. They had scheduled a guest speaker from a magazine who was an alumna of SJMC. At the end of my talk, I said, "Well, I sure hope your speaker shows up tonight!" In response, a young woman, who looked to me like every other student in the class, raised her hand. She was the speaker. It turns out that she had started at her publication as an intern but demonstrated such superlative abilities of technological innovation--such as improving the website--and content creation (good writing) that she had worked her way up to being a key player in the organization. In short, she exhibited the qualities we want our students to develop to their maximum potential: entrepreneurialism, volunteerism, continual self-improvement, and a marrying of technical skills and creative and persuasive communication abilities. As another alum once put it, today's job-seeking grad must be a "one-man band," a very talented one-man band!
Then, just before we bestowed the Iowa Gallup Award in Washington, I met a group of recent SJMC alumni. I was gratified to see that they were all employed but also appreciated the variety of their professional fields and job categories. One young lady, for example, just started work at the Federal Reserve Bank!
In other words, we want to create a school that trains young people to work in communications anywhere in the world, in any industry. Iowa Journalist encapsulates these goals. Dick Johns and his ace student team do it all: video, photography, writing, editing, public relations, marketing, publication design. In showing off the best of SJMC they also show what our students are capable of when we provide them with the resources and the training to prosper.
David D. Perlmutter, Ph.D.
Director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication