IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Inside CU's new faculty profile series
Our faculty are a source of great pride and bring a whole world of expertise, experimentation and excellence to our students and our community. Meet Paul Voakes, dean of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
What drew you to your field of expertise, and what keeps you passionate about your work?
I remember thinking, as I was receiving my master's degree in journalism, that I was so ready to be finished with my education that I'd never set foot on a college campus again—except to cover a story. And now, 33 years later, my field of expertise would seem to be journalism education, at a research I institution no less. What changed things was an invitation from my former journalism dean, 10 years after I graduated, to teach one reporting course as an adjunct instructor. I reluctantly agreed, as a favor to him. What I discovered was that teaching journalism made me think more deeply about journalism than I had ever done before, and that working with young journalists made my own writing and research—actually my outlook on life—suddenly fresher. I kept on adjunct-teaching, to make sure these feelings weren't just infatuation, and after five years I made the decision: As much as I enjoyed my newspaper work, I was ready to go back to school once again, earn a doctorate and become a journalism professor. What keeps me passionate about my work is my interaction with bright, curious, articulate young people who want to work in media. Oddly enough, the current shoddy state of (most) journalism fuels the passion as well. When I think about the role we play as educators in inspiring our students to help journalism reach its still-unmet potential, then I feel really lucky to be here.
What do you most enjoy and what is the most challenging aspect of your profession?
I most enjoy our position: teaching in a professional school that is also part of a research I institution. I especially enjoy doing applied research, that is, research that offers new understandings of journalism and media but that is also meaningful in some way—sometimes even useful—to journalists and media practitioners. That is also the most challenging aspect: balancing the "practical training" side of journalism education with the "research for new knowledge" side.
What are your favorite interests and activities apart from your work?
Apart from work, these days it seems like the Colorado Rockies! I've loved baseball all my life, and sometimes baseball offers us improbable, compelling stories like this one. I also like to read (both fiction and nonfiction), play the saxophone, commune with Bosco the dog and Elvira the cat—and I especially like to travel to new places with my wife, Barbara.
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