McKisson named interim director for 2021-22

July 16, 2021


Photo by Mike Chesnick Prof. Michael McKisson taught high school students how to fly a drone at the 2019 Donald W. Carson Journalism Diversity Workshop.


Associate Director Michael McKisson has been named interim director of the University of Arizona School of Journalism for the 2021-22 school year, the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences announced today.

McKisson, associate professor of practice, replaces Professor Carol Schwalbe, who stepped down after three years as director.

Following 18 months of remote learning due to the pandemic, McKisson and the school are gearing up for the return to in-person learning in August.

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Prof. Michael McKisson

“The School of Journalism is like a second home and I care deeply about the students, so I am looking forward to helping out and supporting them, as well as the faculty and staff,” McKisson said, noting he is “looking forward to seeing students on the third floor of the Marshall building.”

McKisson graduated from the J-school with a B.A. in 2008 and earned his MBA from the Eller College of Management in 2013.

“Mike’s knowledge of both the (school) and the field — including excellent connections with a variety of community partners, in and out of Journalism — make him well-positioned to lead the unit this coming year,” said John Paul Jones III, dean of the College of SBS. “I am looking forward to working with Mike and am grateful for his service.”

Although McKisson’s placement is for one year, he plans on making the most of his time in the position.

“My main goal is to support the faculty and students as we return to a more normal learning setting,” McKisson said. “We’ve been working on some updates to the journalism curriculum that I’d love to see move forward. We also have three new (degree) programs in Studies of Global Media and Bilingual Journalism, which I am excited to see grow over the next year.”

Colleague Ruxandra Guidi, assistant professor of practice, welcomed McKisson’s commitment to the Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Studies of Global Media and M.A. in Bilingual Journalism.

“These innovative programs signal the future of storytelling,” Guidi said. “They'll bring new opportunities for collaboration with other departments, and more importantly, with working journalists and media outlets well beyond Arizona.

“These new programs represent the very best opportunities for a school like ours that is based on the U.S.-Mexico border with such a diverse and curious student body.”

McKisson, winner of the spring 2021 undergraduate lower-division teaching award from the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, also has interest in expanding the school’s “Drone Zone” program as well as looking into 3-D modeling and printing to see how the technologies can benefit journalists.

“Mike is full of ideas that bring together business, storytelling and technology,” Guidi said. “But he's also humbled in his approach and in welcoming others' ideas when they challenge his. I respect that ability. He's a well-loved teacher who knows this school inside out, so I'm confident he'll be a great interim director for the School of Journalism during a time of a lot of change and growth.”

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Prof. Carol Schwalbe

Schwalbe stepped down at the end of June after three years of helping the School of Journalism move forward during challenging times, including the pandemic, which forced instructors and students to adapt to remote learning.

She helped plan a proposed broadcast/podcast studio and a revamped curriculum that gives students more flexibility and course options. She fostered meaningful relationships with donors, focused on student and faculty engagement and exploration grants.

Schwalbe will continue to teach at the J-school, including her science and environmental journalism classes. She has won numerous awards, including the 2015 national teacher of the year by the Scripps Howard Foundation and the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC).

“Professor Carol Schwalbe is a role model in journalism and mass communication education,” said Bakina Wellars, a 2017 M.A. graduate. “I have never seen a journalism professor like her. She has a smooth and learner-centered methodology of teaching.”

Schwalbe mentored McKisson when he was associate director.

“It was a pleasure working with Carol in my role as the associate director,” McKisson said.  “I learned a lot from her and hope to continue moving the school forward in the next year.”