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Dean chooses temporary director of journalism

July 15, 2009


After weeks of uncertainty among faculty and students, Lucinda Davenport, an MSU professor of journalism, was announced Wednesday as the interim director of the MSU School of Journalism.

Davenport’s appointment was announced in a press release two weeks after the school’s past director, Jane Briggs-Bunting, was asked to resign or face suspension by Pamela Whitten, dean of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences.

“I’m very excited,” Davenport said Wednesday. “I am with a great group of people and there’s no place to go but up.”

Whitten, who requested Briggs-Bunting step down on the same day she became dean of the college, said Davenport was selected as interim director after she held a meeting with school faculty last week. During that meeting, she asked the faculty to submit nominations for the role.

Briggs-Bunting is the president of the State News Board of Directors.

“Dr. Davenport emerged as the obvious choice,” Whitten said. “(Her) first step is to hit the ground running with some ambitious goals for the future of the J-School.”

Those goals, she said, include turning the school into an international leader that will shape and redefine the field of journalism.

“She really needs to be able to have the next 12 months or so to be able to jump in and work on some immediate steps to move us toward this vision,” Whitten said.

Whitten said she requested Briggs-Bunting’s resignation to restructure her leadership team.

“As a new dean, when you come in you want to put together a leadership team that shares your vision,” she said. “Dr. Davenport strongly agrees with me as what the vision of the J-School should be.”

Davenport said the faculty will be looking at changes to the school’s undergraduate curriculum, which had been unanimously approved by the faculty under Briggs-Bunting’s direction.

“We’re going to take a second look at it and we’re going to (see) what the faculty feels comfortable with and what will be some big, bold, new ideas so that when our students graduate at any level, they will be able to be leaders in this industry,” she said.

Davenport also said the department will focus on research and scholarship to enhance the school’s curriculum.

Briggs-Bunting, who had served as the school’s director since 2003, said she will continue to serve on the faculty as a professor. She offered praise for Davenport, saying she will do a “terrific job.”

“I think Lucinda is an excellent choice,” she said. “She gets where journalism is going and she’s always been an active colleague and participant.”

Bloomfield Hills-based lawyer Deborah Gordon, whom Briggs-Bunting retained to handle employment negotiations with MSU on her behalf, said she expects talks with the college to wrap up sometime this week.

“She hasn’t officially resigned yet,” Gordon said. “We’re just working towards getting all the loose ends tied up.”

Gordon said Briggs-Bunting intends to officially resign as director, and will begin a two-year research sabbatical away from the university this fall. She will return to the School of Journalism in 2011 as a full-time faculty member, she said.

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