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Letter from the Director

By Albert R. Tims

Albert R. Tims
I just finished reviewing copy for an advertisement that will appear in the national convention program of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) later this summer. The ad recognizes one of our Ph.D. graduates, David Domke (Ph.D. '96), now a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle. David is the 2006 recipient of the AEJMC's Krieghbaum "Under 40" award, which honors outstanding scholars under 40 years of age. We're especially proud of this achievement because last year's Under 40 award went to another of the SJMC's distinguished Ph.D. graduates, Dhavan Shah (Ph.D. '99), currently a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

We're running the ad to celebrate our affiliation with these brilliant young scholars and gifted teachers, and also to tell the story of graduate study here in the SJMC. We want our field's top scholars to continue to view a faculty appointment at Minnesota as a "destination" job, and we want our colleagues around the world to send their best and brightest students to study in our graduate programs. We won't attract top faculty to Minnesota (despite the balmy climate) if we can't promise the opportunity to work with top graduate students. And we know we must create an environment in which new research and scholarship flourish, where new ideas and initiatives are nurtured and where intellectual exchange isn't bounded by disciplinary strictures or isolation from the larger community.

This means putting a good deal of resources and energy into maintaining the excellence of our graduate programs. The SJMC has always been a pioneer in the area of graduate study in the communications disciplines: the School's graduate program was established in the 1930s, and our Ph.D. program was one of the country's first in mass communication, granting its first doctorate in 1956. I'm not exaggerating when I say that the roster of our Ph.D. alumni reads like a who's-who in academic circles.

To maintain that standard of excellence, we admit only six to eight new Ph.D. students in any given year, and our philosophy is to admit only those students with backgrounds and interests well matched to the strengths of our program and with clear intellectual potential to emerge as top scholars and educators. From the time they arrive, our Ph.D. students are encouraged to participate in research conferences, to become involved with faculty research projects, and to begin working collaboratively. They participate in a variety of teaching enrichment programs, and many become research assistants, teaching assistants or lab instructors for our undergraduates. Eventually, many teach classes on their own once they've achieved advanced status. The typical Ph.D. student is with us for four to five years, which is a major investment both for the student and for the program. But we make that investment gladly, because we want to lay the foundation for these future faculty members' careers and distinguished contributions to the field.

As the nature of our field changes and the demands on faculty continue to grow we're faced with a host of issues related to the cost of graduate study, the scope and nature of the curriculum, the growth of interdisciplinary scholarship and the need for many of our future faculty to stay meaningfully connected to professional practice. These aren't easy problems to solve, but we're working on them and will continue to do so in the coming years.

The University of Minnesota is an incredibly strong research university that's set course to become one of the world's top three public research universities. The SJMC is committed to steer by the same star. That means maintaining the caliber and vitality of our graduate programs, and making sure that our talented graduate students have the support they need to succeed and become leaders in the profession. I hope you'll take a moment to read about some of those future leaders on page 14 of this issue of The Murphy Reporter.

Best,

Albert R. Tims, Director