By Michael Bugeja, director
Last year at this time the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication was preparing for another round of budget cuts while addressing “Blue Sky” reorganization within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The State of Iowa was announcing additional anticipated budget cuts that eventually would pare our budget by 24% over the past three years. To make matters worse, nationally we were reading about discontinuation of journalism programs in addition to drops in enrollment in our disciplines and downsizing in our industries. How, then, was it, that the School enjoyed one of its best years in a decade?
This report attempts to address that question so that we can build our own legacy for current and future colleagues. With the passing of such Greenlee icons as Jack Shelley and Jim Schwartz, we’re reminded that great journalism programs have greater visions. What is ours? What are aspects of our success worthy of becoming shared values?
As I reviewed material for the annual State of the School report, it became clear that faculty and staff work collaboratively and collegially in the interests of students, industry and research. Increasingly we are respectful of each other—a hallmark of the new Greenlee legacy. Given the demands of higher education, incivility at the workplace is a self-imposed budget cut, forcing us to expend more mental energy for the same tasks. At the start of the 2003-04 academic year, my first as director, we had no continuing assistant professors. They had left for other opportunities. New hires joined the faculty that year and were promoted and tenured in 2009, ending a 10-year hiatus during which no one was granted tenure in the School. We have since tenured and/or promoted nine colleagues, including seven continuing professors and two senior lecturers—four of them women. Leadership in our Promotion and Tenure Committee, as well as peer and professorial mentoring, helped foster this success.
We also have put a premium on advising—literally, with a course release. We advise our undergraduate and graduate majors and help supervise required internships and theses so that both surpass professional and scholarly standards. To ensure high and timely graduation rates, we have streamlined our curricula while adding more lecturers to the budget book—treating non-tenured faculty as academic equals—because we know the vital role that they play in the School. (Professional lecturers teach about half of all our courses per year, reducing the teaching and advising workload for our continuing faculty doing research and performing essential services.) We also managed to secure raises for continuing lecturers whose workload increased. All of this, on some level, is associated with collegiality and respect for others at the workplace. These are but a few reasons we enjoyed our most productive year in a decade, with a total 277 contributions in teaching/advising, scholarship/research, and professional/community service.
We also have come to value efficiency, effectiveness and transparency. For us, efficiency means avoiding duplication of duties that waste faculty/staff time. We have relatively few standing committees through which most work gets done before being added to the monthly faculty meeting agenda. By the time a measure appears, we know about it because it was discussed in committees and chairs reported minutes and agendas—an open, effective process. We also report the status of our budget regularly in email messages and at faculty meetings, knowing shared governance inspires shared responsibility.
We have been rewarded for these values. Although our budget was reduced significantly, we were able to support our operations through the entire academic year in 2010, thanks to summer school revenue. Foundation accounts have grown 17% in the past year, too. Endowments providing professional development, scholarships and research support now total $4,707,136, up from $3,950,950, thanks to the Iowa State Foundation and benefactors, corporations and alumni. This enabled us to restore $2,000 professional development funds for professors, adding $1,000 for budget-book lecturers seeking teaching resources or retraining. (Note: We will provide funding for non-budget-book lecturers on a case-by-case basis.)
We are proud of our facilities. Toward that end in 2010, we remodeled and refurbished areas of Hamilton Hall, providing a first-class work environment for faculty, staff and students. We upgraded offices, laboratories and restrooms. We did that in addition to overhauling our heating and cooling system and repairing all the damage caused by last year’s devastating floods. We still may have repairs to make in heating and cooling, so please report to the main office continuing issues that you may have.
Word has spread about our shared values through our signature events, the Chamberlin Lecture in the Fall and First Amendment Day in the Spring. While our partner schools last year were debating whether journalism as a discipline could attract enough prospective students, especially in the wake of corporate downsizing, we emphasized recruitment and were rewarded there, too, for our efforts. We have a prospective student blog and created “Greenlee ambassadors,” enlisting our best students to speak with prospective students and their parents. We have maintained our enrollment with an incoming Fall Semester class surpassing 100, the second highest total in the College. We also increased the diversity of our incoming class and enjoyed one of the best enrollment yields in the institution—the number of offers vs. accepts— in journalism and mass communication; advertising also had an impressive yield. As of July 1, out of a pool of 163 offers (compared with 268 in 2010), we enrolled 82 pre-journalism students as opposed to 88 last year at that time. Keep in mind, however, this tally is unofficial and is expected to grow significantly in the weeks before the 10th day of classes. Our records show 100 new pre-journalism students and 26 pre-advertising students as opposed to July 1 figures of 82 pre-journalism and 20 pre-advertising (upon which those stellar yield rates have been based).
We are also making career planning and placement a priority. Our placement rates remain high with about 95 percent of our graduates in both undergraduate degree programs securing employment or being accepted to graduate school within six months of graduation—and this, during a recession! We also offer students opportunities for career preparation through internships, on-campus internship and job interviews, internship and career preparation seminars, and the Greenlee Futures Forum, featuring Advisory Council members and other professional practitioners sharing their knowledge and contacts with students.
As we amassed these accomplishments, the School also maintained its independent status during college reorganization. We emerged from that process identified as home to “destination” majors, disciplines that attract students. Because of that, we continue to enjoy College support. To top it off, our Advisory Council worked throughout the year on a recruitment and marketing campaign titled “Why Greenlee?” If stakeholders haven’t heard about the value of our program, they certainly will in 2011-12.
In sum, our past strategy of stability has paid off. In the 2010 State of the School report, we acknowledged: “Change is coming. People do not fear change as much as the instability that often accompanies it. That is why we are emphasizing stability.” Our streamlined curricula, budgetary operations, and work ethic provided that stability going into the new academic year. “With no additional budget cuts or loss of personnel,” I wrote last year, “we should be able to sustain a level of performance” similar to that of any other budgetary year. Since then we have lost a colleague to relocation. We anticipate a 2012 assistant professor search for a replacement and received an additional $25,000 in LAS funding to ensure that his skills classes are covered. Thus, we have achieved last year’s administrative goal of providing a normal academic year now for faculty and students while other units are in budgetary turmoil.
We must continue to operate similarly in 2011-12, maintaining stability but being nimble enough to provide the level of services that our constituents and accreditors demand from us. Toward that end, we inventoried all the activities, services and tasks required to run a School as complex as ours with as many students. Without the backbone of support staff, faculty productivity decreases, along with morale. Using standard work titles from Human Resources, we realized over the summer that our existing staff was doing more than their position responsibilities required and that we would need two additional staffers to administer undergraduate and graduate majors in our programs. We met with Associate Dean Arne Hallam and Human Resources officers to address the situation and received approval to organize a business hub in which we would share School duties as time and opportunity allow. Because of the hub concept, we have been able to negotiate for a new secretary to help us in the main office. The hub was especially necessary with one of our advisers leaving the School (a replacement already has been hired) and another academic adviser going to half-time at her request. As a result, this semester both will move closer to the main office with one adviser in Room 103 and the other in Room 107, with space set aside for prospective student and advising meetings there. Existing space in what is now the Student Services Office will be remodeled into one ample and one smaller meeting room for instructors, freeing up Seminar Room 172 for faculty meetings and larger-group activities. Of course we will equip that new meeting space with the latest technology so that faculty, staff, graduate students and undergraduates can show presentations and interact with external audiences. Without such a hub, the School would be forced to delegate more clerical and advising activities to professors, taking time from our most important activity: teaching.
Student evaluations consistently rate our faculty as outstanding, as Greenlee School teaching awards attest. We evaluate teaching not only by student evaluation, however, but by other important benchmarks:
To preserve our legacy of teaching excellence, and our status as a destination program, several faculty members have expressed interest in establishing a new public relations degree. The field of public relations is expected to continue to grow well into the next decade. Clearly, that is where we will find additional enrollment. Given our School curricula of lower/upper core courses with shared electives and a capstone internship, such a degree could be created without additional resources in the short term. We already are sufficiently established in the pedagogy to seek accreditation from the Public Relations Society of America. As we increase our enrollment, we will be able to make a case for more tenure-eligible hires while preserving our status as the largest academic unit within the largest college at Iowa State University.
To be sure, our accomplishments—from re-accreditation to research, from creativity to curricula—have brought us national attention. Our sister School of Journalism at the University of Iowa is interested in collaborating with us on a new Des Moines-area master’s program in communication. Given decreasing funding for education, collaboration may become necessary in the future as resources become dearer. This can be viewed then as a strategic opportunity to work with Iowa not only in its proposed new master’s program but also in its existing doctoral one. The Greenlee School has anticipated this, with Graduate Steering looking into possible collaboration with Iowa in its Ph.D. program as well as with Iowa State’s Psychology Department for a joint Ph.D. in media psychology. These are discussions that should take place in the coming months within the Greenlee professoriate to ascertain the pedagogical benefits and financial burdens of any such partnership.
Those conversations, to begin at our Aug. 18 retreat, are different from other discussions being conducted this month by ISU departments and journalism schools across the country. Those programs are grappling with larger workloads, smaller enrollments, fewer services, additional cuts, deficient bridge money, no professional development and scant alumni support, resulting in instability and other problems complicating mandatory rather than voluntary change. In the end, that’s the ultimate value of our program, the ability to focus our attention on students, rather than ourselves, foreseeing change while moving forward in an inclusive environment.