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“What I am Working on Today” Blog

Transitions: Last Year as Director

July 27, 2016

Michael Bugeja, director,
Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication,
Iowa State University of Science and Technology


This summer I begin my 14th and final year as director of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University of Science and Technology, capping it with the Scripps Outstanding Administrator Award, which I will receive officially at the AEJMC Convention—thanks to one of the most productive and collegial faculty and staff in higher education.

That’s not an empty or prideful boast, as our professors, lecturers and professional and scientific staff have won some 40 university and national honors individually or collectively, including the 2014 AEJMC Diversity Award.

It has been a remarkably successful year.

The journey over the past 13 years has been extraordinarily challenging and exhilaratingly rewarding. I relocated from Ohio University’s Scripps School in July 2003 because I wanted to make a difference. The Greenlee School was recovering from turbulent times in part because of diversity issues. Over time we succeeded in changing the culture to one that celebrates inclusion and fosters collegiality, transparency and achievement.

I can state publicly here, without embarrassment or embellishment, in a nationally distributed blog that every member of the Greenlee School has been productive and a team player for the past several years. Thankfully this year Iowa State University has provided as much as 3.5% raises for staff and lecturers (on whom we depend because of our burgeoning enrollment) and 3% for faculty.

I began this blog five years ago with this post about productive employees who would receive little or no raises because the country then was emerging from the Great Recession. “At this point,” I wrote, “we do not know what our raise pool will be or whether central administration will enforce guidelines for distribution. The pool, however, will come from Iowa State’s current budget, expected to be cut by the Legislature as much as 6-10%.”

Nonetheless, there was opportunity even in downturns in the economy and budget. In 2010-11, the faculty finished streamlining curricula so that they could maintain reasonable course loads, interact engagingly with students, and remain productive on trajectory for contract renewal.

You can read about the benefits of curricular streamlining here.

We got rid of emphases, options and tracks and focused on the basics of our degree programs with a relative few but vital required foundation and capstone classes. The rest of our course catalog was rigorous, innovative and largely elective. Students appreciated the ability to choose from rotating courses on topics such as Art, Copy, Code, Big Data and Society, and Mobile Phone Publishing.

We also required undergraduate plans of study for our students so that they could graduate with less debt in a timely manner. We raised millions of dollars for scholarships and faculty development, awarding $3,000 to continuing professors, $1,500 for senior lecturers and $1,000 for lecturers in the budget book. They can use those funds for travel to conferences and for teaching and research needs. We routinely award more funds for superior performance or to underwrite activities of AEJMC division officers.

The result has been remarkable. In the past five years our undergraduate enrollment increased from about 600 to more than 900. Our faculty and advisers share their work around the globe. You can read about faculty and student metrics on our public accountability page, one of the first in the nation, started in 2010-11. Now all programs must document metrics on home pages if they wish to be accredited by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications.

During my tenure the Greenlee School was re-accredited three times. We also earned two successful Regents Reviews. When I arrived on campus, all the assistant professors had left and no one had been promoted since 1998. In 2008, we promoted our first batch of assistant professors. Since then, eight men and eight women have been advanced, including one to full professor.

My role now is to maintain our status as a top program and begin the year-long process of transitioning to new leadership.

The Greenlee School will start with an August retreat with a theme of transition. The agenda includes discussions about the transition from undergraduate to graduate student, from working journalist to educator, from lecturer to senior lecturer, from Ph.D. student to assistant professor, from assistant professor to mid-term review, from assistant professor to associate professor, from outgoing associate director to incoming AD and, finally, to me in my last year as director.

Everyone will be showcased. The point here is that we’re all in transition.

This is my 80th post on the ASJMC website. My intent this year is to document the School’s transition to new leadership—not discussing the search, of course, in which I will not participate—but in organizing files, closing out accounts and other administrative chores that must be done before July 1, 2017.

I will work closely with our Advisory Council in addressing the School’s continuing needs, including more space to continue growing in the next phase of our Greenlee adventure.

In my last year I will raise funds for increased levels of professional development and more scholarships for students to promote our exemplary degree programs in advertising, public relations and journalism and mass communication.

Finally, with ASJMC Executive Committee approval, I will organize and rewrite all of our “What I Am Working on Today” posts into a higher education book available on Kindle with proceeds going to ASJMC or AEJMC, wherever funds are needed.


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