Commencement speeches are a challenge.  I’ve given a few.  Everyone is happy to be there and eager to be someplace else.  The speaker’s challenge is to hope the graduates will remember who spoke and, perhaps, one really insightful thing said.


Eugene Robinson, the speaker at our college’s commencement this week, is probably up to the challenge.  Robinson is the 2009 Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Washington Post, by way of Orangeburg Wilkinson high school and the University of Michigan.  Not one of ours, but he’ll have an honorary USC degree after the ceremony to hang on the wall right next to his Pulitzer.  Or do Pulitzers sit on the mantle?


Some say good writing is in the genes.  It may also be in the Carolina air.  The 2010 Pulitzer winner for commentary is Kathleen Parker, also a columnist syndicated by the Washington Post, who commutes between D.C. and Camden.  Parker was the journalism school’s Buchheit lecturer last fall.  We were on to her perceptive writing—and witty speaking--before the Pulitzer judges.


Our own distinguished alumnus Jim Hoagland, a Rock Hill native, matches Robinson and Parker.  Jim has two Pulitzers for his columns for, yes, The Washington Post.  In a time of blogs and blather that often produce more heat than light, these three South Carolinians have contributed valuably to the civic—and civil—discourse.


What this tells me is that curiosity, critical thinking, and persuasive writing are not a lost art.  How we apply them in the technological age is a matter of understanding audience behaviors.  I can unfold the New York Times at my kitchen table, call it up on my desktop in the office or open it on my iPhone.  Our challenge is preserving core aspects of good journalism while preparing graduates competent in the realities of our digital media. 


Can you, for example, say anything useful in a 140-character tweet?  I hope I just did.  The last sentence in the preceding paragraph fits with eight characters to spare. 


Can you say anything profound in 700 words, a typical newspaper column?  Perceptive interpreters of our time and travails—Gene, Kathleen and Jim—do with a seasoning of Palmetto wisdom.


Bierbauer signature



Alumni News


Lisa GreshamAlumna Named One of Charleston’s Forty Under 40


Lili Gresham, ’06 MMC, director of corporate relations and planned giving at Charleston Southern University, has been named one of this year’s Forty Under 40 class by the Charleston Regional Business Journal. This annual award and ceremony honors professional successes and community involvement of 40 people younger than 40 years old who are making their mark on the region’s business community. Read more>




Aime Dillard in Amber Gibbs designSLIS Alumna Steals the Runway
With a Card Catalog


Thomas Cooper librarian Amber Gibbs, ’06 MLIS, won the top award in Runaway Runway a fashion show featuring designs created with recycled materials. Gibbs created her winning dress out of 100 catalog cards for psychology books from the retired Thomas Cooper card catalog. SLIS student Aime Dillard, a colleague of Gibbs at Thomas Cooper, modeled the dress on April 23 at the show organized by the Columbia Music of Art and Columbia Design League.






College News


Post and Courier series “Failing Our Students” Wins 2010 Taylor/Tomlin Award for Investigative Journalism


Diette Courrege, education writer for the Post and Courier, won this year’s $5000 Taylor/Tomlin Award. Her ongoing series is about the literacy struggles of students in the South Carolina Lowcountry. The Post and Courier reporter spent a year observing students’ schools, personal lives and relationships with teachers. The series has moved the school district to examine the number of high school students with barely elementary school reading levels. Read more>


Taylor Tomlin Award


Newsplex Prepares for 2010 Convergence Conference



“Convergence and Society: Science, Health & New Dimensions of Communication”, our ninth annual conference, will combine convergent journalism developments with an exploration of the latest research in science, health, environmental and risk communication. The conference is scheduled for Oct. 11-12, with a pre-conference session on Sunday, October 10. Contact conference co-chair Augie Grant for details.


Calling All Mentors Our Students Need Your Advice!



Join our college’s Alumni Society Mentor Program. If you've ever had a mentor or been a mentor, you know how valuable the experience can be. Students can benefit greatly from your experience, leadership and wisdom. And you get valuable insight into the emerging workforce and challenges students face today.


The program will start this fall with a “match night,” where mentors and students meet and make connections. After that, it's up to you how much time to invest. In previous years, some mentors have met with students regularly while others cultivated more of an e-mail relationship. Some even ended up hiring the student after graduation.


What do you need to do now? Let us know you're interested and stay tuned for more details. Our match night will take place in September. E-mail Chrysti Shain for more information.


Instructor Spotlight


Instructor Spotlight on Robin Kurz


By Emily Ko, SJMC Student


Robin KurzWhether it’s teaching her students, working toward her Ph.D., or encouraging diversity in libraries, Robin Kurz is an individual living with a sense of purpose. She is motivated by helping and learning from others.


Next year, the SLIS teaching fellow will achieve a goal she set for herself many years ago: earning her Ph.D. She graduated from USC in 1997 and received her MLIS in 2006. After completing her dissertation research on multicultural children’s materials and services in South Carolina public libraries, she looks forward to becoming a professor.


A champion of equality, Kurz’s main focus is on diversity in children’s books. In her study entitled “Where Are the Characters of Color?: A Critical Analysis of the South Carolina Picture Book Award Nominees,” she found that these books’ characters, authors and illustrators are not as diverse as the state’s population.


“It is amazing how few children’s books feature authentic portrayals of characters of color. People don’t like to talk about racism and certain other social issues because they are touchy topics, but we need to bring them out in the open,” said Kurz. She gave up a full-time job to research this topic in her desire to represent all children of all races in South Carolina children’s libraries.


She alternates teaching two online courses: “Materials and Services for Latino Youth” and “Young Adult Materials.” Kurz would rather be known as a facilitator than a teacher. In her opinion, she is only a success if her students are a success. Her teaching method is to treat her students more like peers. What means the most to her is seeing her students become engaged and interacting by choice, not by requirement.


Truly her own woman, Kurz is an example of someone who balances initiative and inner equilibrium. Beyond the classroom, she is a wife and mother who loves exploring nature. Despite her hectic life, she has an unwavering fervor for what she does.


“I want to pass on as much passion for libraries, children and reading as I can. Most of my students will be teachers or librarians. I just hope people have respect for these professionals and what they do.”

Student Spotlight


Student Spotlight on Gretchen Burrack


By Ruth Castillo, SLIS Graduate Student


Gretchen BurrackA typical student likely chooses a major first and then pursues a job in that field. Not so with Gretchen Burrack, but there is nothing typical about this talented second-year visual communications major.


An avid photographer and graphic designer, Burrack came to the university to pursue photography as a studio art major. A practical lecture caused her to change her direction. “One day I was in art class and the professor told us the only income we could expect from our degree was from art galleries and selling our artwork. The next day I went on a search for a new major,” said Burrack.


At the time, she was a work-study student with Patty Hall, the College of Mass Communications and Information Studies Web master, and was familiar with the visual communications major in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications. For Burrack, it was the perfect fit given her passion for graphics and digital work.


Growing up in Irmo, S.C., Burrack taught herself Web programming in middle school. She said she has “always loved spending hours on end trying to find that one character in the code that messes the whole Web site up.” Experimenting in Adobe Photoshop, Burrack learned to combine her interests in digital design and photography. “As much as I loved the darkroom, I loved working on the computer more,” she said.


Hall said, “Since working here, Gretchen has advanced tremendously in her visual communications skills, learning the ins and outs of working on the Web, creating Flash projects and generally assisting in other areas where we market our school.”


Burrack recently was promoted to a staff position as the J-school’s Web assistant. Hall often sings her praise, and said, “She has been involved in designing posters for I-Comm Week, developing ads for publications and creating logos and invitations. She is talented, creative and uses her skills in and out of class on our behalf.”


As a visual communications major, Burrack has learned she prefers critique to praise. She said the best class she has taken so far was the graphics for visual communications, taught by Scott Farrand. She said it wasn’t necessarily the subject matter that made it the best, but Farrand’s honest critiques and suggestions for where to take a project next. After that experience, Burrack said, “I was determined then to keep on working on a project instead of leaving it as is because it got me a good enough grade.”


Taking this lesson with her to her hands-on experience as Web assistant, Burrack quickly learned another lesson. “Working for other people to create what they ask for gets you outside of the box and outside of your repetitive style. I have created some of my best work as Patty's assistant because I collaborated with her and other colleagues with design and ideas.”


Burrack plans to graduate in 2012.


“Black Magic” Book Party
Wednesday, May 5
5:30 p.m., SC State Library

Come celebrate Dinah Johnson’s newly released children’s book “Black Magic.” Johnson is a professor of English and children’s literature at the University of South Carolina. The book party will include Johnson’s reading, a special dance performance by students from Conder Elementary Arts Integrated Magnet School and dance teacher Veneshia W. Stribling.
Read more>


May Carolina Alumni Weekend

“The World According to Twitter and Kindle”
Friday, May 14 at 3:30 - 4:45p.m.

Russell House Student Union

Learn how to face the changes in our communications world at this panel featuring socially connected alumni and faculty of the College of Mass Communications and Information Studies.

Dr. Curtis Rogers, ’91

Communications director for the South Carolina State Library
Doug Fisher
Senior instructor specializing in editing, new media and community journalism in SJMC
Mandi Engram, ‘03
Director of marketing for the Midlands Authority for Conventions, Sports and Tourism, Columbia, S.C.
Elise Lewis
Instructor and researcher in technology, user behavior, and digital information in SLIS
Jonathan Bennett, ‘05
Online news editor of of The Florida Times-Union

Register here>


Annual Alumni Society Baseball Gathering
Saturday, May 22
2 p.m.

Join the Alumni Society for a tailgate before the Florida baseball game at the Carolina Coliseum, outside of the Blossom Street entrance to the J-school. Bring your own food and drink and enjoy mingling with other alumni, faculty and staff!
We’ll head to the game around 3:30 p.m. Game starts at 4 p.m. If you aren’t able to join us for the tailgate, meet us at the BI-LO Berm inside the Carolina Stadium at 3:50 p.m.
RSVP to Melissa Gentry

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