In June, Dr. Erika Engstrom was announced as the new director of UK’s School of Journalism and Media. Engstrom, who was previously a professor of communication studies at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, applied for the position with a desire to “train students to be work-ready...critical thinkers.”
“As the country and the world face the challenge of a public health crisis of historic and monumental proportions, the need for accurate, fact-based and fact-checked information is more important than ever,” Engstrom said in her cover letter. “The responsibility of mass media communicators becomes heightened and makes even more vital the need for journalists to hold leaders accountable.”
Engstrom attended the University of Central Florida and the University of Florida, earning a doctorate in Mass Communication. During her college career, she held positions at several Florida television and radio stations. These included production assistant at WCPX-TV and midday news anchor at WUFT-FM.
“I loved being a journalist,” Engstrom said. “I remember my job in TV news as being especially intense, because it seemed I would walk into the newsroom, get to work, and then—poof!—it was nine hours later.”
Engstrom was one of three candidates considered for the director position. In May, each candidate made a virtual presentation to the college and answered questions from students and alumni.
“The interview process is a challenge,” Engstrom said. “The people who are considering you for this...are at the top of their own game, and have high standards for whom they're going to select to join them.”
Engstrom’s presentation detailed goals to reconnect with UK alumni, enhance curricula through research and workshops, and combating the shrinkage of the local news market.
“Alumni want to reconnect and know what their favorite professors are doing now...and this can also be a tool for donors promoting the importance of local news,” Engstrom said in her presentation. “How can we educate and build upon the idea of making sure that the news industry is healthy and strong?”
When asked about the most important thing she has learned through her career, Engstrom said she must always be open to new ideas.
“One of my favorite sayings is from Michelangelo, who at age 87 was reported to have observed that he was still learning (‘Ancora imparo’),” Engstrom said. “I've learned the importance of...learning from others—things that make us better students, teachers, and human beings. It's a real honor to be chosen from some pretty tough competition and to be asked to join the team at UK.”