Director: Everyone steps up during COVID-19

April 16, 2020
Faculty Zoom meeting


Dear alumni and friends:

I wanted to fill you in on how the School of Journalism is faring during this topsy-turvy time. I’m so proud of the way that our faculty, staff and students have pulled together in response to the COVID-19 crisis. They have inspired me.


In our College of Social & Behavioral Sciences, more than 500 faculty responded in just four working days to turn 37,000 seats in nearly 1,000 SBS courses into a form of remote learning. Their efforts were supported by their colleagues and an amazing group of administrative, business, technology, instructional support and advising staff, most of who were working remotely.
Before we went mobile, we made sure journalism faculty and staff had a laptop to take home. We held training sessions on D2L (our course management software) for faculty who had never taught online, led by Profs. Michael McKisson and Maggy Zanger, who were also tapped for college task forces to help other instructors.
Prof. Rogelio Garcia and adjunct Christopher Conover of Arizona Public Media pivoted quickly and came up with assignments for their broadcast class that could be delivered online. They continued with lessons on data journalism and writing scripts based on A-roll and B-roll posted online. The broadcast instructors had to deal with the equipment that students had, slow or no internet connectivity (on reservations, in homes with no or limited bandwidth) and the difficulty of uploading and downloading big files. Prof. Kim Newton also faced these issues with his photo and multimedia classes.
Prof. Nancy Sharkey embraced the challenge of teaching a large freshman class online. One of the students, Tatyana Johnson, sat in on a KGMN podcast with a Kingman, Arizona, radio host who interviewed her family about her aunt's recovery from COVID-19 with limited resources or services. 

“This has helped me understand the direct impact news has in our lives, and even more specifically my family's life,” the student wrote, thanking Sharkey. “It has helped me realize that this is the field I belong in, and this is the exact reason I chose this major.”

Our two new faculty took on roles they didn’t envision when they started in August. Prof. Jessica Retis took her graduate class in research methods online, and Prof. Ruxandra Guidi dealt with three skills courses—one class was providing content for the Arizona Daily Star, another for AZPM and the third for the Patagonia Regional Times. Adjunct Tom Beal, a retired science reporter with the Star, has been assisting Rux with the Patagonia project.
Students couldn’t interview face-to-face or shoot close photos of people. Interns couldn’t go to the stations or newsrooms where they were working, so their supervisors had to come up with alternative assignments. Vianney Cardenas, in Nogales, contributed to an Arizona Daily Star story on merchants affected by travel restrictions. Some interns elected to research and write an industry trend report with Prof. Susan Knight, who is also teaching Feature Writing.
“My features students are working on some excellent slice of life stories about people’s lives and business upsets,” Knight said. “However, many are not (here). Some of them are in New Jersey, Massachusetts, Denver, LA, etc. I’m encouraging them to write on what’s going on in their areas.”

Elsewhere, at least four students published columns or first-person experiences. 

Faculty and staff meet every Monday on Zoom to share teaching strategies — and many continue to have individual meetings with students via FaceTime, Zoom or phone.

“Many students are struggling with adapting to online, and the work with each of them was incredibly gratifying,” Knight added. “Some of the best moments of teaching for me!”

Prof. Carol Schwalbe
UA School of Journalism director