David Perlmutter has a shot at his dream.
One of three finalists vying to replace Jean Folkerts as the dean of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Perlmutter said he’s coveted the position since he began working in higher education.
“I’ve admired the University of North Carolina from afar for many years,” he said Monday.
He added that although he’s honored to be considered, he realizes there will be challenges ahead.
“I’m really worried about the future of higher education in general, particularly how to sustain growth and innovation in difficult budget times,” he said.
The other finalists are John Pavlik of Rutgers and Carol Pardun of the University of South Carolina.
Perlmutter, the director of the journalism school at the University of Iowa, told a UNC crowd he would navigate through tough budget times if selected.
Despite budget constraints at Iowa, Perlmutter said he’s managed to hire 16 new tenured faculty, bring in new staff members and raise $100,000 in funding to expand current programs.
Perlmutter said he doesn’t have a large support staff and handles most administrative duties personally, including soliciting donations.
The key to sustaining growth in the face of budget constraints, he said, is developing a personal connection with donors.
“Maybe two-thirds of my job has to do with fundraising,” he said. “I don’t think any state will see a renewal in investment in higher education, so new sources must be found.”
In addition to addressing budget constraints, Perlmutter said he wants to strengthen the partnership between reporting and strategic communications, such as public relations and marketing.
“The most important consideration, the gold standard for a successful school, is balance and symmetry,” he said.
“Students of journalism and mass communication fail when they lean to one side of the field.”
He said this means the curriculum must constantly be adapted, innovated and renewed for the benefit of the students.
Perlmutter has authored several books on political communication, photojournalism and new technology and writes a column for the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Rhonda Gibson, an associate professor in the school, said she appreciated that Perlmutter understood the University’s commitment to excellence.
“He seemed very knowledgeable about what we do here,” she said.
“I like what I heard so far, but I don’t want to make much of a judgment until I’ve heard the other candidates.”
Junior Patrick Wright said he thought Perlmutter was experienced, but he worried there would be a steep learning curve after coming from a smaller university.
“The biggest thing for me is the budget. I’ve got one year left here and I’m really worried,” Wright said. “We need to be able to fight through these budget cuts and not just for next year, but for future students too.”
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