Kurpius announced next journalism dean

The former LSU administrator will start at MU on July 1 with a base salary of $240,000.
Portrait of David Kurpius. Courtesy of the University of Missouri

Garnett Stokes, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, announced Thursday morning that David Kurpius will be the new Missouri School of Journalism dean. The school has been without a dean since former Dean Dean Mills retired in February 2014 after a 25-year term.

Kurpius will start his new position July 1 with a starting salary of $240,000, MU spokesman Christian Basi said in an email.

Kurpius comes from Louisiana State University, where he is currently associate vice chancellor for enrollment management and a tenured professor at the Manship School of Mass Communication. He got his start in education as a teaching assistant for radio news reporting at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in September 1991.

Prior to his academic career, Kurpius worked in a wide range of broadcast positions, from master control switcher for WTIU-TV, the PBS station for Bloomington, Indiana, in 1982 to news director at WMGT-TV, the NBC affiliate for Macon, Georgia, in 1990.

“With more than 10 years of professional television news and production experience and a proven record of increasing diversity in student and faculty populations as an academic administrator, David is uniquely qualified to lead the School of Journalism and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute,” Stokes said in a Missouri School of Journalism news release. “We’re excited to have him here as the School of Journalism is poised to enter a new era of innovation. David’s scholarship as well as his academic and professional background will help elevate MU’s status as a top-tier, AAU (Association of American Universities), land-grant institution.”

More than a month before his appointment, Kurpius visited MU for an open forum on Feb. 17. He declared that students should always come first at a school, and that student leadership is critical for student development.

“When I became a news director (at WMGT-TV), I found that I have a knack for building journalists,” he said at the forum. “You can build a lot more journalists at a university than you can in the newsroom.”

Members of the search committee cited Kurpius’ previous administrative and professional experiences as an important quality that put him on the list of four finalists.

“We have a professional school, so we want to have people with professional experience,” Clyde Bentley, associate professor of journalism who was a member of the search committee, told The Maneater in February. “We’re also a star academic school, so we want to have someone who has the knowledge of research.

Kurpius emphasized three key points during his forum: collaboration, diversity and change.

He said he believed student feedback to be just as crucial as faculty input, and that increased student interaction and participation in events like the journalism forums would improve collaboration.

Kurpius also emphasized the need for students to become more exposed to diversity before reporting on controversial subjects like the events in Ferguson.

Given the changing nature of journalism, Kurpius deeply believes convergence journalism will help future journalists interact on varying platforms, he said.

“I think what he was saying was: ‘Look at your strengths,’” Bentley told The Maneater in February. “It’s not just the technology … Look at what you can do for journalism and that’s where it’ll probably be going.”

Meanwhile, Kurpius self-proclaimed he is no expert in strategic communications, but said he plans to consult with those in this field as he leads the journalism school.

Kurpius was chosen by Stokesfrom four candidates — Sonya Forte Duhé, Esther Thorson and Thor Wasbotten — with the advice of the search committee.

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