Dean Susan King announced on Tuesday that her time as dean at UNC's Hussman School of Journalism and Media will come to a close at the end of this school year.
Since my 2019 graduation, my school has made national headlines over pandemic regulations, COVID-19 clusters and racial inequities that echo in our systems of higher education resulting from a long history of racism and white supremacy. Our school has been at the center of national conversations for what feels like forever.
Dean King’s announcement prompts me and many alumni to pause for a moment and reflect on what it means to be a Tar Heel, and why our beloved “J-school” holds such a special place in the hearts of its students, faculty and alumni. Moreover, it reminds us what power representation can do in a time where women are still fighting for equality.
My mom’s "J-school" was the school of Journalism and Mass Communication. My "J-school" was the School of Media and Journalism and just as it was time for me to leave UNC, our "J-school" became the Hussman School of Journalism and Media.
They can change the name as much as they want to, but for those whose lives were changed in the classrooms of Carroll Hall, it will always be the “J-school” to us.
Dean King played an active role in the lives of her students and in the lives of students to come as an advocate for interactive, impactful education standards. She was my first professor in the school as a first year. She and Professor Deb Aikat taught MEJO 101, an introduction to journalism course that featured different aspects of the school, professor and course offerings and what it meant to be a “new-age” journalist.
The class filled Carroll Hall’s largest lecture space where students of all kinds showed up to hear Professor Aikat introduce Dean King every single day by noting, “Class! We have with us today, Dean Susan King!” He introduced her every class as if she were the special guest lecturer. We, the students — who were made up of eager, nervous first years, athletes, artists, advocates — just sat thinking, “Yes, Dean King is here. She’s here every day!” But it makes sense now why Professor Aikat treated her presence like a gift and why he wanted us to be equally as excited and appreciative of her attendance.
Dean King has paved the way for female journalists in this country. To have a professor and dean who worked for Walter Cronkite, the first female news anchor in her Buffalo market at the time, who founded the International Women’s Media Foundation, who has worked as a White House correspondent, in the thick of political reporting, government affairs and hard-hitting journalism, meant something.
I am proud to be a forever "J-school kid" because of what the community of professors, leaders and faculty gave to me. This space of phenomenal human beings and resources was fostered by Dean King and her tenacity to make UNC’s journalism school the best it could be. And that’s exactly what she did.
The people in Carroll Hall invested in me with deep joy, passion and dedication. My dean, my professors and my classmates cheered me on and helped me achieve my dreams. Whether this was connecting me with people in the field who could advise me on a specific project, scholarships like the Sharoky Fellowship to pay for my housing when I was an unpaid intern in Washington, D.C., connecting me with financial awards to study journalism abroad in China, Japan and Israel ... the journalism community made me the person I am today. They made me a better writer, public speaker, communicator and change maker.
To this very day, no matter how many days pass since my graduation, the "J-school" gave me mentors, friendships, life lessons and writing critiques that I carry with me in my daily life. I walked in Carroll Hall as a girl and walked out of it a young woman, ready to see the world with fresh eyes, and who always seeks to find the root of the issue to spread truth, light and justice.
Thank you, Dean King. My entire experience as a journalism student at UNC was what it was because of you. It is a gift of the community that is evergreen. Your legacy will allow more and more young journalists, especially young women journalists, to shine.
Your legacy and light shines on forever, especially in the hearts and minds of all those who were made better in Carroll Hall.
This is what it means to be a "J-school kid."
DC Public Policy Analyst, UNC Alumna
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