Two Years

This week marks two years that I’ve been a dean of one of America’s great Journalism Schools.

I knew it would it would be a new way of life. I didn’t know how much of one.

I laugh at myself some times to realize that I left the world of news at a pivot point of change to enter, years later, the world of higher education that is in the midst of disruption.   Stable, “this-is-the-way-we-do-it” institutions don’t seem to attract me.

There have been more surprises than I expected in these two years at UNC.  Some unnerving:

  1. Scandals in big time sports that have rocked the university’s sense of its identify.
  2. Leadership changes at the very top.
  3. Tight and tighter finances with a legislature unwilling to loosen budget strings in these turbulent times.

But there have also been surprises that are simply exhilarating:

  1. A faculty that is self-motivated and researching areas that are breathtaking to learn about.
  2. Innovation and experimentation underway in ReeseNewsLab and within the VisComm faculty that astounds me.
  3. A tenure culture that may demand more time and work than I ever imagined, but that holds faculty to a standard of research and creativity that doesn’t end when you win tenure.
  4. A staff that loves all things Tar Heel and give and give and give.
  5. Students that are self-starters, good writers, creative, inquisitive, driven and fun to be around.
  6. Alums that open doors to worlds that I know – newsrooms, TV stations, and radio studios. And alums that teach me about new ventures in social media, global strategic communication, entrepreneurship, and start-ups.

I’ve never worked so hard.  The string of emails and the layers of constituencies are complicated and many.  But I feel welcomed into a community of ideas, relationships, commitments and mission. I feel part of the past and am focused always on the future.

Higher education two years and ticking is not for the feint of heart.  It takes your best thinking and your total commitment.

I know that UNC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication is as good as I thought it was when I left Carnegie Corporation of New York to enter the unknown as dean.  But I also know that with the changes underway in the world of communication, it will not be the same school when I leave.  And it feels very good—two years and ticking— to know I’m with a group of faculty, staff, students and alums that face this change and cheer.

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