K-State’s A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications lost seven faculty and staff members after the end of last semester, including three in top leadership positions.
Journalism school director Nikhil Moro resigned for personal reasons last spring. He is now listed as an associate professor at the school. Steve Smethers, an associate director at the school since 2004, is serving as interim director of the Miller School.
And Steve Wolgast, director of Collegian Media Group, which puts out the school newspaper, yearbook and a lifestyle magazine, left K-State for a job at the University of Kansas. Wolgast was also the adviser for the Collegian, the campus newspaper. Linda Puntney, the former K-State student publications director and nationally renowned college publications adviser, will act as interim director of Collegian Media Group, Smethers said.
Spencer O’Daniel, who had been associate director of the Collegian Media Group, as well as the adviser for the yearbook and magazine, left after the spring semester for a job as a high school journalism adviser in the Wichita area. The new associate director is John Walter, who previously taught at Junction City High School.
Smethers is coming on as director while the school is preparing for its reaccreditation cycle, which involves several reports on the school’s funding, enrollment, curriculum and future prospects, in addition to site visits from the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism.
Smethers said the school also is facing the same challenges many other departments across the university are facing, particularly decreased funding as a result of K-State’s budgeting model.
That model now allocates departmental funds based on each department’s enrollment, which Smethers said has largely meant lower funds for the journalism department.
Journalism enrollment has decreased by about 50 students per school year since 2014, according to the school’s website. The fall 2018 undergraduate enrollment was 363 students.
However, Smethers said the department is seeking to broaden its market by offering certificate programs — including certificates in tourism, military public relations and film studies — in conjunction with other departments on campus.
The department also recently hired Jacob Groshek as the Ross Beach Chair in Emerging Media. Groshek is an expert on the media’s impact on political and health decision-making.
Overall, Smethers said the program’s changes reflect a change in the industry. The school was recently named one of the top 10 schools in the country for a bachelor’s degree in mass communications, he said, and as the state’s first journalism school, he said it’s one the country’s “blue-blood” journalism schools.
“We’re changing,” Smethers said. “But we’re especially seeing a renewed interest in traditional reporting skills, on the things we’ve been teaching for years.”