By Michael Bugeja, director
All accrediting organizations create and use specific standards both to assure that institutions and programs meet threshold expectations of quality and to assure that they improve over time — “The Value of Accreditation,” Council for Higher Education Accreditation
Every six years the faculty and staff of the Greenlee School take stock, analyzing the effectiveness of everything from shared governance, curricula and facilities to scholarship, diversity and continuous improvement. This is our re-accreditation year, with a site team set to visit Hamilton Hall on Oct. 25-28.
In this report we will share where we were 13 years ago and how far we have traveled collectively since then, in large part because of accreditation, which we have enjoyed continuously since the first cohort in 1948.
When I took the directorship at Greenlee in July 2003, I set up shop in a temporary space in the basement where the graduate hub is now located because Hamilton Hall was being remodeled. Worse, there had been a flood. So the smell of wet paper was still in the air. I had no office. There was a cordial welcoming note from my predecessor with an ending that I will remember for the rest of my days: “By the way, the school is being reaccredited this year. Good luck!”
Within a week or so I received a telephone call from Susanne Shaw, executive director of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications, asking if I wanted to request a one-year delay in assembling the self-study because I was a new arrival. (All that had been done were brief outlines and notes in various Word files.) I said, no, we would handle it. Given the state of the school then, a tumultuous time during which all the former assistant professors had left, there simply was no time to delay. I used my wire service skills to write brief drafts of each section and then sent that to Associate Director Joel Geske to fill in all the gaps. We went to work around the clock, visited ACEJMC headquarters for last-minute advice about our self-study, and finished it before the September deadline.
In the six months before our site visit, scheduled in the winter of 2004, we held faculty meetings about short-term goals. We decided collectively that we needed:
These are hallmarks of our school now. During the Fall 2003 semester, the faculty and staff had to unite on short notice to put these innovations into place. The result was an overall positive site-team visit with non-compliances in research and service. Upon receiving the report, I wrote a memo to the faculty stating: “While it is true that we can argue against non-compliances in scholarship and public service, it is also true that we are being held to a Research I standard at Iowa State University and that we lacked a public service mission in our Governance Document, along with methods to assess that mission. … The most important contribution that you can make at this time is to continue to work diligently with renewed spirit—a key factor in the team’s positive report. In the end, you have earned the re-accreditation recommendation because you focused on priorities, made swift and impressive gains, and ultimately safeguarded the legacy of the school, of which I am fortunate to be a part.”
The Greenlee School that you recognize today was born, literally and figuratively, because of the 2003-04 re-accreditation and the subsequent affirmation by the Accrediting Committee in Chicago and the Accrediting Council at Harvard.
As soon as we received re-accreditation that year, we went to work preparing for the 2009 visit. We aspired to these specific goals:
In 2009, however, the school was in the midst of steep budget cuts. Because we had accomplished each of the above goals—including our current streamlined curricula, effectively allowing more time for research—we had one of our best years ever, especially in scholarship. The ACEJMC site team emphasized that progress. “This is a well-educated, talented faculty with a promising future. Turmoil before the last accreditation visit six years ago led to the departure of all the assistant professors, but the school has hired a cadre of excellent young faculty members who are passionate about their teaching and research, and they join a seasoned faculty who are, in large part, reinvigorated by their presence and as committed as ever to their own teaching and research.” As some will recall, the director was called “bullish” in that report in advancing the school and protecting the faculty. I have come to embrace that nom de plume.
Soon after the re-accreditation, we underwent a Regents program review and invited a distinguished ACEJMC team to help us prepare for re-accreditation in 2015. After an extensive evaluation, that site team also looked positively about the future of our program, writing: “The review team believes Greenlee will continue to be a strong source of ‘destination majors’ … (with) the potential to be recognized nationally as a leader in journalism, advertising, public relations and graduate-level education.” The team also complimented us on progress in assessment but noted we had more work to do. We used that as an invitation to consult with one expert member of the site team who helped us create an assessment plan with direct and indirect measures that currently ranks among the best at Iowa State University.
Because of the efforts of faculty, staff, alumni and students, the Greenlee School is on top of its game. In 2014, we won the AEJMC Equity and Diversity Award. Considering the journey from the uncertainty of 2003 to the current day, that honor ranks as our greatest collective achievement.
Another milestone is our record of tenures and promotions. In 2003, after former assistant professors had left, new ones arrived with me on campus, including Daniela Dimitrova and Jay Newell. Both received tenure in 2008, ending a decade drought at Greenlee. By 2015, with the promotion of Raluca Cozma and Gang Han, our record stands at 15 tenures and promotions (including senior lecturers) for eight men and seven women, two of whom achieved the rank of full professor. It is to this collegial and supportive environment that we welcome our new assistant professors, Dara Wald and Kelly Winfrey, establishing a near even balance of men and women in the faculty.
In a few months, our 2015 ACEJMC site team will read about our myriad collective achievements in a well-designed and written self-study. Unlike the hurried one in 2003, this document was created over 10 months by standing committees coordinated by Alyssa Rutt, program coordinator. Below are a few of its highlights.
Our enrollment keeps climbing with 258 advertising majors, 355 journalism majors, and 253 public relation majors.
The growth is due in part to our core values. We are committed to reducing student debt and ensuring timely graduation, with more than 50 percent of our majors graduating in four years and 6 percent in three years—better averages than the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Iowa State University. We communicate to all incoming and transfer students in our orientation sessions the necessity of monitoring and reducing debt levels. Toward that end, in our Orientation to Journalism and Mass Communication class, those students must complete an undergraduate plan of study to graduate in four years. Through our annual scholarships, available to all students including incoming freshmen, we provide close to $200,000 financial assistance to help defray debt, thanks in large part to our endowments. In 2003, our endowments totaled about $800,000. Now our cash and endowment funds total about $6 million donated by loyal alumni and generous corporate benefactors.
In addition to raising awareness about student debt and providing scholarships, our faculty and advisers work hard to place graduates within six months of graduation. Those efforts also have paid off. In 2010, our placement rate was 93% for all majors; in 2011, 97%, in 2012, 96.5%; in 2013, 99.5%; and in 2014, 97%. (For additional metrics, visit our public accountability and transparency page, one of the first to go online within ACEJMC programs.)
To prepare students for internships and job interviews, the Greenlee School created the Jump-Start internship and career fair, which happens once every semester. Before the event faculty, staff and alumni conduct professional development workshops covering everything from résumés and portfolios to interview dress and etiquette. The first Jump-Start series was held in fall 2014. It featured two professional development workshops and an internship fair with 35 Iowa employers and 250 student attendees. The second Jump-Start series was hosted last spring and once again included two development workshops and a job and internship fair. This event showcased 40 employers and 160 student attendees. In the near future we hope to attract a corporate or foundation sponsor to expand our professional training workshops before each Jump Start event.
As part of the Jump-Start series, the Greenlee School is working to expand our corporate partnerships to provide paid internship positions for our students along with more scholarship funds. Each year the school awards about $20,000 in internship support so that students can take positions around the world without increasing loan debt. We are delighted that these efforts have resulted finally in more paid internships than unpaid, as the table below illustrates.
Click the interactive map below to view the outlets and countries that have hosted Greenlee students on internships since 2013.
In addition to internship support, our streamlined curricula also reduce loan debt, ensuring that our students graduate in a timely matter with the skills and competencies necessary for successful careers as communicators. Now we offer three clean degree sheets in advertising, journalism and mass communication, and public relations. Each major has a balance of lower and upper core courses with flexible curricula that can be easily assessed for ACEJMC values and competencies. In addition, our capstone internship tests whether our seniors have mastered those values and competencies. Almost everyone has.
Because of counsel from our alumni, we now feature digital elements in almost every class, responding to needs of the fast-changing media environment. Our Multimedia Production class emphasizes evaluating, constructing and designing information for the Web along with other electronic publication systems. We also now have a popular Digital Publishing class. Another new course, Computational Communication, partners with design and computer science students to incorporate code into data-driven ads. Our Digital Video Production class extends video production to advertising and public relations students to meet expectations of their professions. We also feature seminars on social media applications and big data. We even require digital portfolios in media ethics, soon to be required for all majors at Greenlee.
Our students are engaged, not only in the classroom or on internships, but also via our student organizations. Student media and professional organizations are integral parts of the Greenlee student experience. At one time, the department of journalism and communication boasted several magazines. That heritage has been resurrected with Ethos, a general interest magazine; Sir, a men’s magazine; Uhuru, a multicultural magazine; Trend, a fashion magazine, and Veritas, law and politics magazine. Journalism majors continue to make their mark and apply their skills at the award-winning independent Iowa State Daily or at ISUtv and KURE radio. Advertising majors can learn about the industry in Ad Club, our largest student organization with more than 100 members, or apply their craft at the Cardinal & Gold Advertising Agency. We also boast two named organizations with endowments, the Leo Mores Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Barbara Riedesel Iverson Chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America.
Because of these activities and innovations, our program has been named as one of the best in the country by several Internet portals and organizations. The Greenlee School ranks sixth in the nation in the category of affordability and quality education, according to College Factual, an online site that aggregates outcomes-based data, such as starting salaries, earning potential, student aid, tuition cost and return on investment based on the cost of the degree. Other databases that rank the Greenlee School among the best programs in the nation include Campus Explorer, College Media Matters, College X-Press, Degree Query, Learn.org and USA Education Info.
Faculty productivity, especially in research, has helped elevate the school’s national profile. Professors publish regularly in flagship journals, including Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly and Communication Research. Greenlee faculty members have presented a total of 143 papers since the last re-accreditation review in 2009. During the same period, faculty members have authored a total of 96 refereed journal articles, 22 book chapters, and 6 books. Additionally, individual faculty members have actively sought internal and external grants to support their work. These efforts have resulted in a total of 30 external grants and 57 internal grants received by the school in the past six years.
How far we have come in so short a time! Now we eagerly await the ACEJMC site visit to assess and evaluate these achievements to see if they live up to ACEJMC standards.
As I noted earlier in the year, my singular goal as director is to lead our brilliant, collegial, inclusive faculty and staff to a re-accreditation without any non-compliances. This will be my seventh re-accreditation, with one at Oklahoma State, three at Ohio University, and three at Iowa State. With each new site visit, the face of the faculty changes. In 2003, Daniela Dimitrova, Jay Newell and I arrived on campus to a faculty full of senior professors, many of whom have since retired, as our esteemed colleague, Eric Abbott, will in December. At the start of the spring semester, Joel Geske will have the longest tenure at the Greenlee School. Daniela and Jay will become our most senior professors. Others on the faculty, especially our newer and gifted arrivals, will have benefited not only from the efforts of colleagues, the generosity of alumni and the achievements of students, but also because of the standards of accreditation.
Take a close look at this report. You will see ACEJMC behind almost every accomplishment and innovation. Accreditation gives us national status more valid than any ranking in magazines or online portals. That is why we proudly display our three promise banners at the entrance of Hamilton Hall—the Greenlee Promise, which vows that current students will be as inspired as past generations; the Student Promise, which vows to live up to the school’s rigorous training; and the Accreditation Promise, which promotes required values and competencies.
When you pass those banners on your way to a meeting or class, stop and read them. You are part of a long legacy of quality education in journalism and mass communication. It is our hope that collectively we will keep those promises so that the future of the Greenlee School is ensured and embraced by new generations supported by alumni, donors and citizens of Iowa.