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Greenlee swinging for sports media and communication degree

Joseph Dicklin
Iowa State University Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication window title located in Hamilton Hall, Jan. 17, 2024.

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is nearing the end of a proposal for a new degree program that includes both a major and a minor in sports media and communication, opening up new opportunities for those interested in journalism and communication.

Michael Dahlstrom, director of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, said the reasoning behind creating the major was for students interested in sports.

“We have had students interested in sports who have completed sports media internships, gotten jobs and begun their careers in sports media,” Dahlstrom said.

The Greenlee school offers journalism, public relations and advertising, but according to Dahlstrom, in the last three or four years, freshmen students have become increasingly interested in sports media. As a result, they began to consider that this is a rapidly expanding field with high demand. 

Dahlstrom said the next step was consulting the Greenlee Advisory Council. 

“We also spoke with the Greenlee Advisory Council, which is made up of professionals from across the country, and they were very supportive,” Dahlstrom said. “They said, ‘Yes, there is a need for qualified graduates in sports media; there are jobs available, and we really want them.’” 

Dahlstrom said Greenlee began moving forward with this proposed new major due to both strong student and professional demand. 

Jan Lauren Boyles, associate director of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, stated the next steps in the proposal process was developing the coursework.

“The faculty contemplates what is needed in the curriculum – such as specific coursework or experiential learning opportunities,” Boyles stated. “From here, faculty members write a formal proposal that encapsulates our plan for the degree.”

The degree request, which has been approved by the Greenlee school, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the faculty senate and awaits approval from the senior vice president and provost and university president before heading to the Board of Regents. The program has an estimated start date of the fall 2024 semester.

“The degree proposal has received unanimous support from all voting bodies across the institution so far – a fact that speaks to faculty buy-in across campus for the new proposed major,” Boyles stated.

She mentioned each step of the way, the proposal was improved, and new ideas were added. 

According to Dahlstrom, Greenlee will offer a sports media principles class that focuses on sports media, communication, and how it specifically fits into society, history and other factors contributing to the media environment that exists today. They will also offer a variety of three and four-hundred-level sports media and communication courses. 

“As part of the new program, students will be required to take practicum credits, in which our undergraduate majors will have hands-on, real-world experiences from the first year,” Boyles stated. “We see the practicum as a learning laboratory within the major, in which students can acquire a host of valuable skills, including critical thinking and public speaking, for instance.”

With the courses specified, Greenlee faculty were able to put some of the curriculum into practice. According to Boyles, they were able to ‘test drive’ some of their ideas with small enrollment short courses, allowing them to assess student demand. Assistant teaching professor Beth Haag had been a driving force in developing and implementing this format for sports classes thus far, with assistant teaching professor Tony Moton offering new special topics courses this spring. 

The final step in making this proposed new degree official is to obtain Board of Regents approval.

“We are hoping that we could have new majors starting in fall 2024,” Dahlstrom said. 

Dahlstrom also said the school of journalism has already begun to prepare.

“We’ve started making these partnerships and designing these classes,” Dahlstrom said.

A new broadcast production faculty member, assistant teaching professor James McNab, was hired this spring and will also join the faculty sports team this semester, according to Boyles. 

Boyles chaired the committee that pursued and coordinated the proposal, which included Haag, Moton, teaching professor Brenda Witherspoon and associate teaching professor Gary Sawyer, as well as students Brock Beirman and Makala Kafer and Dahlstrom.

Boyles, who has been with Iowa State for almost a decade, stated that moving this major forward with our Greenlee team has been one of the biggest joys of her job thus far. 

“Together, we’ve been working in this space for several years, with our talented faculty teaching special topics/short courses and our ambitious students securing high-visibility, sports-related internships,” Boyles stated. “It’s been joyful work to collaborate with this team as we build new coursework and brainstorm new partnerships.”

Dahlstrom said he is very excited to get this project underway. He said that everyone they spoke with, including athletics, Cyclones.TV and colleagues across the state, have been extremely supportive. He said he believes there is a strong demand for this major, and that students will have many opportunities once they graduate. 

“I know that this major, if approved, will leave a lasting legacy at Iowa State that will serve generations of students,” Boyles stated. “And I will be looking forward to the day – pending Board of Regents approval – when we can grant the first sports media degree. I’m excited to shake that student’s hand at graduation.”

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