David Boardman is not an academic or a professor, and doesn’t hold a Ph.D., but last week, the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist started his first semester as dean of the School of Media and Communication.
Boardman’s selection, which seemed atypical of a university accustomed to naming academics to dean positions, was announced in July after an expansive search to fill the position, which has been held by an interim dean since 2009.
Though Boardman, who was the executive editor of The Seattle Times, doesn’t hold the staunch academic credentials of many of the deans throughout the university, officials called him an innovator in journalism and said his experience made him the top candidate for the job.
“If you look across the U.S. at newspapers that have really evolved and changed in this new media environment, The Seattle Times is a definitely a leader internationally, not just nationally, and he is the guy who has run The Seattle Times through the last decade,” President Neil Theobald said in an interview last month. “He’s really pushed The Seattle Times from being a very gray newspaper to – on the Internet – being one of the major players among newspapers.”
Boardman, 56, was at The Seattle Times for 30 years and is involved with a slew of media agencies throughout the country including the Poynter Institute, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Center for Investigative Reporting. He is also the president of the American Society of News Editors and will next year become the president of Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.
His career has taken him from a small, weekly paper in the San Juan Islands where he was the only reporter, to being the top editor in one of the largest media outlets in the Northwest, but Boardman said he only recently started to think about steering his career in a different direction.
“The longer I was in a newspaper, it struck me that I might have the ability to impact the future of these professions far more profoundly within education, rather than within the industry,” Boardman said.
Though he has received inquiries from search firms in the past for jobs in education, he said the opening at Temple was unlike other opportunities he had been presented with before.
“Pretty much from the first hour I stepped foot on this place, I had a sense that it was different.” Boardman said.
The deanship Boardman is taking over is very different from his undergraduate experience where he attended the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. While SMC is larger and much more diverse than Medill in terms of programs and majors, Boardman emphasized in an interview last week that he is excited to lead a school with the array of programs that SMC offers.
“I recognize this as far more than just a journalism school,” Boardman said. “A big part of the strength of this school is the diversity of its programs.”
As he works through his first semester at the helm, Boardman said he’s aiming to spend the fall listening to concerns of students and faculty.
“I have great confidence in my ability to lead the faculty, staff and students to the goals we all come up with collectively, but I’m also really humble about what I don’t know and understand about this world,” he said. “I’m just listening and learning during this semester.”
While he is spending his first semester learning about the school, he said he hopes to invoke a sense of “courage of curiosity” in the school.
“What we want to arm students with is just this passion of curiosity,” Boardman said. “That curiosity, rather than starting with conclusions, that is what I want to see in the education here.”
Sean Carlin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @SeanCarlin84.