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Transitions

August 16, 2016

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


Today I will begin documenting my final year as director of the Greenlee School, using this ASJMC forum to show that leadership remains vital during transitions. In 2003, I left the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, where I worked as professor and administrator for more than 17 years, and came to Iowa State during a crisis. My goal was to make a difference. With the help of an exemplary faculty and staff, we achieved that and so much more.
 
In 2014, we won the AEJMC Diversity Award. That is our biggest collective achievement. In thirteen years we also had three successful re-accreditations and two Regents reviews. After a decade’s drought, in 2008 we promoted and tenured our first cohort of assistant professors. Now we have advanced eight women and eight men, with one achieving full professorial rank under my watch.
 
We raised millions with almost all of that going to professional development and student engagement. We award more than $200,000 each year in scholarships and internship support and created student and alumni organizations to help with job placement and assessment. In the past five years our enrollment has grown from about 600 to 900. We established a public relations degree that thrives with our advertising and journalism degree programs. Faculty and staff have won more than 40 college, university and national awards. 
 
I can state here publicly online that every Greenlee employee works diligently to her or his full capacity. True, we have our bristly moments. But in general everyone is collegial and collaborative.
 
It’s a great place to work, which is why I won’t be seeking another administrative position elsewhere but remaining here to teach media ethics and writing.
 
But there is an undercurrent now of anxiety. Some Greenlee faculty and staff are uncertain about the incoming leadership, as an outside search firm has been hired to find my replacement. Some professors are approaching mid-term P&T reviews, for instance. Some are accustomed to our transparent policies and procedures and wonder if they will change. 
 
Thus, it is my role to reassure the Greenlee staff and constituents that transition is nothing to fear.
 
To make that point, we are having a retreat next week with the theme of transition. We will begin with a graduate student discussing the transition from undergraduate to master’s work. We will hear from a respected practitioner about the transition from industry to the classroom. Second-year assistant professors will talk about their first-year experience for our new arrivals. Third-year professors about preparing for mid-term reviews and a fifth-year professor, for her mandatory one. Newly tenured associate professors will discuss their journeys, including more service now with administrative roles. We have a new associate director and new undergraduate director. Our outgoing associate director, my long-time friend and colleague Joel Geske, will talk about his return to the classroom.
 
And when that is all done, I will talk about my plans for the transitional year. There are thousands of files that have to be digitized and organized. We have Advisory Council meetings and signature events to schedule and new fund-raising goals. I have a book for Oxford University Press to finish, a sabbatical application to make, and a 90-seat media ethics class to teach.
 
I have promised my dean and employees that I will try to make this transitional year as smooth as possible. Anyway, that’s the plan.
 
That harkens a distinct memory.
 
When I arrived on campus in 2003 and met Bob Greenlee, a distinguished graduate of our program with vast business expertise, he asked me what my plans were to make a difference at the School that bears his name.
I explained my leadership philosophy and immediate plans for more transparency and faculty recognition.
 
“What’s your Plan B?” he asked.
 
Actually, I had one and Plans C, D and E. I shared those.
 
“I will tell you the best Plan B,” he finally replied. “Throw out every plan because you never know what will happen and you have to adjust to every new situation.”
 
That, my friends, was the best advice ever because, as Mr. Greenlee knew, we are all in transition and have to adapt to circumstance, day in and day out, whether we realize it or not.
 
These ASJMC posts will document that. Then, if the Executive Committee approves, I will sort, rewrite and compile what should be about 100 articles here into a Kindle book on higher education administration, with proceeds going to AEJMC and ASJMC.
 
Wish me luck.

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