Interim journalism chair resigns, search continues


Interim Journalism Department Chair Al Wildey will resign from his leadership duties Dec. 22.

Wildey was appointed in April following the dismissal of Chair Jiafei Yin on April 1. Wildey was expected to serve as interim chair for 12 months.

The department will now recommend a new interim chair while a nationwide search is conducted to find a long-term successor.

A professor in the art department, Wildey said he doesn’t have the journalism background to make decisions that will impact the department long-term. He said it’s important that the faculty step-up and take control of the department.

“The reason I turned in my resignation is because I feel strongly that the things I was brought in to do have been accomplished,” Wildey said. “I’m at a point where I feel very good about my colleagues here. I think it’s imperative that the people in the department guide the process forward.”

During his time as chair, Wildey said he focused on stabilizing the department, fostering communication among faculty and ensuring students were being properly educated.


Wildey said he was asked by Janet Hethorn, dean of the College of Communication and Fine Arts, to look for a chair with a background in journalism. The posting for the job description lists journalism experience, and someone who could be hired as a full professor with tenure.

The posting for the position of chair was announced this semester. A committee of faculty members will recommend a candidate, Hethorn said, adding that she anticipates interviews for the position will be held in the spring. Professors within the department can apply, she said, but the department also is casting a “wide net” to hire someone by conducting a nationwide search.

“From everything I understand, the search is going fine,” Hethorn said. “I don’t know what the current count is for applicants, but fingers crossed we’ll get somebody who is great.”

In the meantime, faculty in the journalism department will recommend an interim chair to Hethorn.

The chair typically serves for three years and is rotated among department faculty. Wildey said a chair hired from outside the university would likely stay in the position for an extended duration and earn a higher salary.

“The advantage of an internal placement is everyone knows each other; the disadvantage is that they’re typically not trained as an administrator,” he said.

A department chair has to deal with budgets, resource management, facility management and other things professors aren’t typically trained to do, Wildey said.

“The dean has made decisions she thinks are in the best interest of the department,” Wildey said. “Whether everyone in the department signs on to that vision or agrees with it is a different thing.”

The department still has challenges moving forward, Wildey said.

Wildey said the issue of leadership must be resolved and communication between the department and the dean’s office needs to improve. He said whoever comes into the position of chair needs to be a consensus builder and establish trust between the department and dean’s office.

“At a foundational level, many disagreements and problems come about from a lack of communication,” Wildey said. “It’s not specific or special to here — effective communication comes with so many challenges and it’s certainly a challenge (between the department and dean’s office).”

Hethorn said the journalism department has worked through challenges and it’s her goal to foster positive and supportive communication and a successful journalism department moving forward.

“Departments go through times of turnover. That’s something that’s not uncommon,” Hethorn said. “I think students are in good hands and I am optimistic we’ll have a new chair in August.”


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