School of Media director committee concludes search

Jody Richards Hall.

Natasha Breu

The third search for director of School of Media since 2017 is coming to an end with four candidates up for consideration after interviewing and presenting over the last two weeks in Jody Richards Hall.

Kristina Arnold, the chair of WKU’s Department of Art as well as the search committee, said they’re interested in moving quickly and they’re excited about the four candidates who were finalists in the search.

The director search committee first announced the search in September 2019 along with its partnership with Parker Executive Search, a global search firm that focuses on clients in higher education as well as other areas according to its website.

The past two searches ended with no hires, even after the committee narrowed down the candidates. The committee met Monday morning to discuss the candidates and developed a list of strengths and weaknesses for each, but the decision is ultimately left up to Dean of Potter College of Arts and Letters Larry Snyder and the provost, said Mac McKerral, a committee member and the journalism coordinator for the School of Media.

The most recent director Loup Langton stepped down in October 2016. Robert Dietle, who serves as the head of the History department, has served as interim director since June 2017.

The first search for a new director took place in spring 2017 without success, and another followed in the fall. Snyder reopened the search in spring 2018, but it resulted in no hires. Snyder chose to pause the search for the 2018-2019 academic year to give the School of Media a chance to “reflect and recalibrate.”

Over the past few years, the School of Media has gone through several changes, including a name change from the School of Journalism & Broadcasting. Additionally, the Public Relations and Advertising programs moved into the Communications department.

Snyder said the unanimous decision of the faculty to change the name to the School of Media from the School of Journalism and Broadcasting reflects efforts to “refine the mission and priorities of the unit.” Snyder also said he was satisfied with the finalists the committee chose.

“The depth and quality of the applicant pool this time is tremendous,” Snyder said in an email. “I am very pleased that the committee has chosen to invite such capable and experienced candidates, any of whom have the credentials to lead the School of Media going forward.”

Sara Thomason, an assistant professor of film and also a member of the search committee, said the four candidates brought to campus for the director position stood out because of their administrative experience. She said their professional backgrounds in leading faculty and working closely with other department heads as well as a dean and provost is what the committee was looking for. She said the candidates have that experience.

“You know as far as the whole school goes, you know we have four incredibly dynamic programs that have unique vibrant personalities and share a lot of similarities,” Thomason said. “And so, you know, having a leader who recognizes all of those strengths and recognizes those similarities and some of the differences, and someone who can, you know, really bring us together.”

Arnold said this is an exciting time for the School of Media and that the committee is “very pleased” with the four finalists for director. She said Parker Executive Search was also helpful in recruiting “qualified” individuals.

“Among them [director candidates] they have an impressive range and breadth of experience in the field, in academia and as campus leaders,” Arnold said in an email.

The new director will support initiatives to enhance the school’s programs, engage faculty, staff and students from the school’s diverse disciplines, cultivate an active alumni network and foster multidisciplinary collaboration, according to the Parker Executive Search position description.

Jillian Ryan, a junior broadcasting major, said she is interested in seeing the changes that will occur if a new director is chosen.

“I would like to see someone who likes to engage and interact with all students just to get to know people more,” Ryan said. “I feel like the School of Media is a big family already and a new director coming in, I feel, needs to meet the same ‘family feel’ criteria there is now.”

Grace Wallace, a junior broadcasting major, said she hasn’t faced any challenges as a student from not having a director since she feels as if the faculty, staff and advisers have done a “great job” ensuring they’re there for students and care about them.

“I have such a good relationship with all my professors that I would honestly consider them to be just as good, if not better, than like what a director could do for me,” Wallace said.

Wallace also said she thought there could be improvement in communicating to students via mass email about the director search so they can be more familiar with the role of what a director is supposed to do. Although she knew about the search from her courses, she said each professor in the school could’ve talked about it more. Although an interim director has been in place since 2017, she thinks instead of paying a director for the School of Media, that money could be used toward the school directly.

“That money can go towards a radio station or new lights or new cameras or literally anything else,” Wallace said. “I think we’re doing just fine without a director… It’s just very important that, like I said, because our broadcasting program specifically is so close knit, it is extremely important for this person to really get to know the students, get to know the faculty, and just, you know, are there to support everyone to utilize and to have an open door policy kind of thing,” Wallace said.

Hayley Robb, a senior journalism major and creative director of Cherry Creative, like the Herald part of WKU Student Publications emphasized the need for a new director to bring the majors in the School of Media together and bring excitement back to journalism. She also said when she graduates she hopes she can look back and see more of a relationship between student publications and the school.

“I think that’s one thing that maybe I missed out on my college career is that, not the mesh, like the possibility of meshing different majors,” Robb said. “Maybe by creating an environment that encourages the crossover between the different major major op tions, it will recruit more students to the school… Hopefully different projects out in the community and different efforts to bring students together as more of like a team.”

News Editor Natasha Breu can be reached at [email protected] wku.edu. Follow her on Twitter @nnbreu.