Turning It Around
With a passion for her students and her teaching, Journalism Department Chair Dr. Jennifer Greer makes a difference every day on the College of Communication and Information Sciences.
By Amber Ingram
Journalism department chair Dr. Jennifer Greer’s office has the feel of an open space where students and her staff can talk about anything. Around the room, pictures of her three daughters and their framed pieces of their school artwork give the impression that Greer is passionate about relationships. It’s a quality that carries over to her professional life.
Greer said her primary goals are to share the excitement of journalism with students and hire the best faculty to teach in the new media age. She strives to mix the excitement and innovation while never losing sight of the traditional news values that make journalism such a valued institution in U.S. society.
“I knew I wanted to be a journalist since I was 10 years old, and my fifth grade teacher told me I could write,” she said. “I saw how fun it was and what a difference journalism makes in the world. I never knew it would eventually lead me to teaching or being here at UA.”
When Greer first started on her path to be a journalist, her dream was to be a White House reporter. But her first job after earning her bachelor’s degree at the University of Missouri was as a business reporter in a bureau of The Kansas City Star. She didn’t know much about covering business at first, but grew to love the job and stayed there for almost four years. She left to earn a master’s degree in master’s degree in political science at the University of Kansas and a Ph.D. in mass communication at the University of Florida.
Teaching was something Greer didn’t know she’d do for a living until she got her first teaching job at Kansas as a graduate assistant. She found that she loved it. Seeing freshmen looking up to her for knowledge sparked a passion to help people understand how important journalism remains in today’s society. She went on to teach as a doctoral student at Florida and then spent 11 years at the University of Nevada, Reno.
The UA Department of Journalism benefited from Greer’s desire to find a job closer to her family in Missouri and Georgia. The department had been without a permanent department chair for three years, but Greer said she looked upon the associated challenges as great opportunities to put her stamp on the program. Greer built on what she calls an “amazing faculty and staff and a strong foundation” by working with the faculty to come up with new curriculum plans for majors, guiding the one-year M.A. program to be financially self-supporting outside of grant funds and seeking out and hiring new, highly qualified faculty.
Greer said the journalism major, rooted in the newspaper and magazine tradition, is still vital and relevant despite economic and technological shifts in the news industry in recent years.
“It is changing, but we will always need reporters to sort out what is true and what’s not,” she said.
Greer’s co-worker, Reese Phifer Professor of Journalism Dr. Matthew Bunker, said Greer has excelled in her role as head of the journalism department.
“She takes her role as department chair very seriously and does a very fine job as an administrator, yet she also has a marvelous, irreverent sense of humor,” Bunker said. “She works very hard at her job and is a tremendous help to her colleagues.”
For future students, Greer says journalists play a special role in society. They have to research the truth and expose the lies. She tries to impart to students what a special privilege and a wonderful gift it is to be a journalist.
“I want to prepare them for envisioning the future while maintaining the strong traditional core values and principles of journalism,” she said. “That it takes a special skill and all the right tools to become a journalist.