By Denise Dowling, Interim Dean

When August rolls around, we roll up our sleeves at The University of Montana and prepare to greet a fresh crop of students and another academic year. We’ve got new faculty, new courses, and new energy in Don Anderson Hall this fall; we’re rarin’ to go!
You may know that I’ve been serving as interim dean since August of 2012. That role will continue for me for at least a bit longer. Former dean Peggy Kuhr is now working in President Royce Engstrom’s office as his Vice President for Integrated Communications. We’re accepting applications now and interviews will take place this fall and winter. We hope to have a new dean named in the spring. But we’re continuing to move forward with our plans for curriculum, recruiting, retention, and planning for our centennial celebration.
Our newest faculty member, Joe Eaton, comes to us from the Center for Public Integrity in Washington D.C. Joe brings a strong investigative background and expertise in database-driven reporting. We’re anxious to tap into his skills and expose our students to his techniques and experiences.
Pulitzer prize-winning reporter Tamara Jones has joined the faculty this fall as our distinguished T. Anthony Pollner professor. The former Washington Post writer is teaching a senior-level seminar course called “Training the Professional Observer,” and is mentoring and advising the Montana Kaimin students.
We celebrated homecoming in October and honored Jim Messina with UM’s Distinguished Alumnus Award. Jim spent some quality time on campus talking with students and alums about spearheading President Barack Obama’s successful 2012 re-election campaign.
We continue to evolve the curriculum to respond to shifts in the way journalism is delivered and consumed. We now require all students to take courses in audio, video, and photography; we’re adding an additional required writing course at the freshman level; we’re creating capstone courses that are multi-media and multi-platform. But we remain true to our commitment to turn out strong reporters, compelling writers, critical thinkers, ethical professionals, and broadly educated young journalists.
The master’s program in environmental science and natural resource journalism is attracting stronger students each year. Recent grads have had their master’s projects published and broadcast on professional outlets including High Country News and the Montana Public Radio. We successfully applied for admissions to the Western Undergraduate Exchange program that allows master’s students in 11 western states to receive in-state tuition at UM. We hope this will be another draw to our program.
Journalism schools face a recruiting problem. I believe the news about the evolution of journalism has frightened some students (and perhaps more significantly, their parents) away from the profession. You can help me spread the word that journalism is not dead, it is simply evolving. There is a bigger audience for news than ever before and a great demand for journalism and journalists. I receive calls from people like you every week searching for employees and our placement rate is extremely high. There are more jobs than there are graduates to fill them.
We are reaching out to prospective students in ways we never have before. We’re attending high school journalism conferences in neighboring states, meeting with undeclared students at UM, and have created the J-School’s first-ever dual credit course with Sentinel High School in Missoula. We’ve launched a new web site we hope is more appealing to prospective students. We hope our efforts will result in a larger and more diverse student population.
I’m sad to report former dean Charlie Hood passed away last week from Parkinson’s disease. Charlie was a wonderful combination of hard-nosed professor and soft-hearted human being. We’ve had an outpouring of support from alums far and wide and will post plans for services on our website and Facebook page.
I want to thank those of you who participated in our job and intern fair last spring. We think it was a great success, especially for our first time out! We counted 12 internships or jobs that resulted from the event and we hope we’ll be even more successful next time.
In 2014-2015 Montana Journalism will celebrate its centennial and we hope you will celebrate with us! We’ll have a weekend of events during Homecoming on September 26 & 27, 2014 and other special events throughout the year. Check out our web site for a calendar of events as we plan the festivities.
I’d love to hear from you about anything that’s on your mind. Drop a note, send an email, or plan to come by next time you’re in town.