New Dean Tapped to Head Journalism and Mass Communication

Jean Folkerts, professor of honors and of media and public affairs at George Washington University, has been selected to become the next dean of UNC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

The appointment, announced Feb. 24 and effective July 1, was approved by the UNC Board of Trustees March 23. Folkerts also will hold the title Distinguished Alumni Professor.

“Jean Folkerts is an experienced administrator who was well received by faculty, students, alumni and others during the schoolwide review process of the finalists,” said Chancellor James Moeser.

He added that Folkerts “has demonstrated a broad depth of knowledge about the rapidly changing field of journalism and mass communications, especially the role that electronic media will continue to play in informing key audiences.”

Folkerts will succeed Interim Dean Tom Bowers, who took over on July 1, 2005, after Richard Cole stepped down after 26 years as dean to return to the faculty. Folkerts was among three finalists named by a search committee chaired by Bernadette Gray-Little, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, who has been named to be UNC’s next provost.

At UNC, Folkerts will lead the only school of journalism and mass communication in North Carolina. The school offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees and covers virtually all media fields at the undergraduate level. The school has 48 full-time faculty positions and 24 full-time staff members who serve nearly 1,200 students. Journalism and mass communication is perennially one of Carolina’s largest overall majors.

Folkerts joined George Washington’s Media and Public Affairs program in 1990. Since then, she has served as director of the School of Media and Public Affairs (1996-2001), interim dean of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences (2001-02) and associate vice president of special academic initiatives (2003-05).

In 2001, Folkerts was named the Teacher of the Year for excellence in the teaching of media history by the Freedom Forum, a nonpartisan foundation. She also was recognized among the 2001 Kansans of Distinction by The Topeka Capital-Journal for excellence in media and journalism.

Before entering higher education, Folkerts was a general assignment reporter for The Topeka Capital-Journal; editor of Perspective, a magazine published by The Menninger Foundation, a psychiatric research and hospital institute; and assistant press secretary to the governor of Kansas. She wrote freelance articles for magazines such as Chicago Today and Modern Bride.

Folkerts was editor of Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly from 1992 to 2001 and remains a member of the editorial board at the publication. She also has served on the editorial boards of Journalism Monographs and Journalism History. She was a member of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication’s professional freedom and responsibility committee in 1991 and also served as newsletter editor, research chair and head of the history division. She was on the association’s executive board for three years.

She earned a doctorate in American studies from the University of Kansas and bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Kansas State University. She taught at the University of Texas at Austin and was associate professor and director of the department of communications at Mount Vernon College before moving to George Washington.

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