UM School of Journalism director provides mid-year update


Denise Dowling UM School of Journalism, Director

Dear Journalism Alumni, Donors and Friends,

What a year! What a semester! Thank goodness this one’s in the rearview mirror.

Greetings from the UM campus where we’ve just wrapped a semester like no other. I’m really proud of us and of you. We managed to get through the curriculum despite the many and varied challenges and got almost all our students to the finish line. Faculty and staff have offered unprecedented support to our students in ways large and small. The students have been troupers too. They’ve had their own battles with the pandemic, but stayed engaged and flexible. We’ve been able to support students financially with internship stipends, equipment purchases and project funding because of your generous donations to the School. The semester put us all to the test and I’m happy to say we’ve come through it (mostly) intact!

You know our enrollment was up substantially this fall and I’m happy to report that mass of expected new freshmen showed up and stuck with us. We have 95% of our current students enrolled for the spring so we’re expecting another full house in January when the semester begins. We’re also busy with recruiting for fall 2021 and hope we can grow our student numbers once again.

The College of the Arts and Media has hired a dean. Laurie Baefsky comes to us from the University of Colorado Denver where her current title is Associate Dean for Research and Strategic Partnerships. She’ll begin at UM on January 1 and will be the first permanent dean of CAM at UM. She’s a fan of the School of Journalism and says she’s excited to help us continue our excellence and expand our reach. We think she’s a terrific fit for us.

Next month, we’re deploying our student reporters to cover the biennial Montana Legislature in Helena. The students will produce daily content for more than 80 local and regional newspapers, radio stations and web sites. We’ll welcome Pollner Professor #27 to Don Anderson Hall in January as well. Geoff McGhee of the NY Times, ABC News and Stanford University will teach a course on data visualization and multi-media storytelling.

The Kaimin managed to produce and print a newspaper every week this semester and will return in the spring to carry on that important work. We’re planning to produce Native News, podcasts and television documentaries in the spring. We’re getting pretty good at working with the challenges of performing journalism in a pandemic! What a terrific learning experience for us all.

We would not have made it through this trial-by-fire without your support. It’s hard to explain how much it means to us to know you appreciate our work as educators, our students and the mission of journalistic excellence. Your contributions, whether financial or emotional, are the juice that keeps us moving forward. If you’d like to make an end of year donation, you can give ONLINE here or connect with us anytime.

We look forward to the time when we can return to business-as-usual, but until that day comes we are soldiering on and doing as best we can with this hand we’ve been dealt.

I hope you are well and that your immediate circle has not been overly impacted by COVID. We wish you a happy holiday season and hope you find a safe and meaningful way to celebrate.


Denise Dowling

Director, UM School of Journalism