School of Journalism and Broadcasting director search narrowed to two candidates

Emma Austin

The search committee for a new director of the School of Journalism and Broadcasting selected two candidates for the position to meet faculty, staff and students and present ideas and a vision for the school following its semester-long search to fill the position.

The committee held a search for a new director last semester after former director Loup Langton announced his decision to step down, but it ended unsuccessfully after top candidates came to campus in April. Potter College Dean Larry Snyder told a Herald reporter this summer he made the decision to close the search because there was no consensus of support for either candidate.

Robert Dietle, who was head of the history department at the time, was named interim director of the school this summer before the search relaunched this fall, headed by English Department Head Robert Hale.

The first candidate, Aaron Chimbel, came to speak to students and faculty in the School of Journalism and Broadcasting on Friday, Nov. 17.

Chimbel is currently a journalism professor at Texas Christian University. Before that, he worked as a reporter for KWTX-TV in Waco, Texas, and later for WFAA-TV in Dallas as a digital field reporter. He has produced two documentaries, and his work has received five Emmy Awards, according to his website.

In his presentation, Chimbel went through some basic concepts and skills important to the school’s curriculum, including the First Amendment, ethics, diversity, history, gathering information and writing. He also spoke about focusing on “outcomes over tools” when teaching students, since tools and technology always change.

Chimbel also talked about how to recruit more students and said pinpointing the school’s identity is a way to do that.

“Here, there’s obviously some very, you know, strong programs that have been doing focused things for a while,” he said. “That’s what you need to keep in mind: what is our focus? What can we really do? What is our value here? Why does somebody want to come here versus any other journalism and broadcasting school?”

The second candidate, Mary Lou Sheffer of the University of Southern Mississippi, also spoke about recruitment possibilities in response to a question from a faculty member when she visited campus on Monday afternoon.

Sheffer listed some recruitment ideas including promotion through social media and the school’s website, billboards, showcasing awards and reaching out to high schools.

Sheffer also mentioned the possibility of beginning a graduate degree program within the school and talked about the importance of collaboration within the school.

“It shouldn’t just come from me,” she said. “It should be your vision as well.”

Sheffer is currently a broadcast journalism professor at the University of Southern Mississippi and said she has been teaching since 1999.

Hale said the search committee will now gather feedback and put together a list of strengths for each candidate, which it will send along to Snyder for final selection.

“I’m very excited about both candidates myself,” Hale said. “I think that both candidates are quality people. They’re very different, both quality individuals.”

Hale said he is optimistic about the search’s results. Though the timeline is not exact, Hale said he anticipates a candidate will be selected by the end of the semester.

Projects editor Emma Austin can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @emmacaustin.