Tales from the Lecture Track

lecture track image

Sheila Tefft , Director of the Journalism Program


Vol. 8 No. 2
October/November 2005

Return to Contents

By A Nose
Jockeying in the Rankings Race

The Current Standings

Whither the NRC Study?

"I am not going to change our methods of calculation just in order to try and achieve a ranking higher than another institution."

"Part of the reason educational reputation is so important is because people—students, faculty, and administrators—derive much of their status from the status of their institution."

Graduate School and College Excellence
Does research reputation influence undergraduate rankings?

Peer Scorings and Rankings of Colleges and Graduate Programs and Research


The “Lecture Track” Reconsidered
Professional identity and aspiration among non-tenure-path faculty

Tales from the Lecture Track: Kristin Wendland, Music

Tales from the Lecture Track: Sheila Tefft, Journalism

Virtue and the Stewardship
of Academic Freedom

Reflections on ambition, conversation, and community



Many journalists contend writing news is more demanding than teaching it.

Subscribers to this newsroom myth are hereby invited to spend time in the Emory Journalism Program. Academic journalism may lack the deadlines and frenzy of breaking news. But as the journalism program director, I still await those leisurely hours professionals think teachers have.

Teaching has a constancy that is expected and needed. Last spring, I asked a committee of journalism students to weigh in on candidates for a faculty position. Their bottom line was whether the applicants would be there for the students, inside and outside the classroom.

I spend a lot of time just “being there.” There is the daily student tide of emails, inquiries, challenges, supplications, and handholding. Parents call. How could their daughter abandon pre-law for journalism? Can their son get a job and make a living? Why wasn’t their child selected for the program?

There was a time I wondered if students noticed a teacher’s diligence. After all, The Emory Wheel editorial page runs periodic reminders that student consumers are paying big bucks for the Emory cachet. Then a few years ago, I won a Crystal Apple. After recovering from my shock, I cried.

As internship coordinator, I am often a professional matchmaker. CNN—or The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, or Business Week magazine, or the Atlanta bureau of The New York Times—needs a student researcher. Word goes out to all journalism students via a Learnlink site. But which student to promote as the best candidate for a top spot?

And then the daily detail of academic administration. The deadline for the latest report to the dean’s office looms. Will I attend a symposium and provide a needed voice of the Journalism Program? There’s a strong journalism connection in an upcoming lecture. Will the program cosponsor? “Would you be willing to deliver our annual lecture on journalism and the law?” I ask a prominent journalist over the telephone. Off to a meeting of directors of undergraduate studies or Freshman Advising and Mentoring at Emory or Honor Council advisors.

In between, I shut my office door and prepare for class. Or I draft a journalism article to stay grounded professionally. Or sketch out plans for a panel I will moderate at the Atlanta Press Club.

My major challenge is shaping a curriculum that prepares student journalists for the uncertainties ahead. Journalism is in trouble; mounting scandals confirm that. Real-world minefields for young reporters weak in traditional values, ethics, and professionalism are many. How we take back journalism for the next generation is an ongoing dilemma, and a fascinating one.

So is partnering journalism education with the liberal arts and sciences at Emory. Journalism’s curriculum is an interdisciplinary exploration. One year I am establishing a criticism course with performing arts faculty. The next I am surveying faculty and students across the university for a new science writing program. The sky’s the limit when you teach in the ultimate interdisciplinary field.

Rethinking journalism’s partnership with colleagues in other disciplines is one of the most creative parts of my job. In fact, I think it’s my favorite. That is, after all the leisure time that comes with teaching.