Brookings register | The last edition of the career of a journalism teacher comes to an end
BROOKINGS – “Never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel,” advised an Indiana lawyer in 1962.
The idea was that the media could make life miserable for those who fight with them. Professor Lyle Olson spent 45 years in journalism, but the modest principal of the school at South Dakota State University has spent the vast majority of that nearly half a century in journalism. as an encouraging voice for journalists in training rather than being a pugilist for his own opinions.
After June 21, he will put down his “teaching” pen to focus on grandchildren, travel and home projects.
The Brookings man, 66 and a half, is retiring from the school where he started working 32 years ago and graduating with his bachelor’s degree in 1976.
Olson was a quiet 17-year-old in Bristol High School the first time he entered the South Dakota State Campus – and it was in a rather roundabout way.
His cross country team had come to Brookings for the Class B State Championship in 1971. The course was on the Brookings Golf Course, which had sand greens and was located where the garden now stands. Chittick community. Olson was the Pirates’ third-highest scorer, finishing 21st overall, strong enough to help Bristol claim the state crown.
Afterwards, the team showered at The Barn, which was then the university’s gymnasium.
Now, “when I park near Yeager Hall I can see The Barn’s north gate and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m in this position, teaching here all these years later. ‘ When I walk through the main west door (towards Yeager Hall) I still smell ink and can’t believe I’m in charge of this place.
“It’s a great place. When I was first hired at SDSU, I thought to myself that I had a PhD, but only five years of experience (the minimum in the tender). Will I survive? ‘ I guess I did, ”Olson said in an interview after his final semester of teaching.
First Online Education Leader at State
Even after becoming the founding director of the School of Communication and Journalism in 2018, he continued to teach at least one course per semester. For the final year, the courses were online: nonprofit public relations in the fall and international media in the spring. Part of that was because of COVID-19. In part because online gives the necessary flexibility in his administrative position.
But also because online education matches his teaching style. “I’m a learning facilitator versus a knowledge diffuser, i.e. a speaker, and I’m good at writing step-by-step instructions,” Olson said.
Olson started teaching online in 1999, long before most people had heard of www. Computer Assisted Information Gathering was a 400 level class to introduce students to terms (URLs, etc.), mailing lists, search engines, and other resources. Its origin was a seminar given to South Dakota reporters on Campus News Day. Department staff thought it would be a good class for their students as well, Olson recalls.
At the time, the students thought it was very useful because they hadn’t heard of the World Wide Web in high school. As the web became more familiar, the offering became a 100-level course and was dropped in seven years as freshmen were well acquainted by the time they arrived at SDSU, a Olson said.
Moving to Dakota Digital network
His pioneering pedagogy continued in 2004, when he taught the department’s first Dakota Digital Network (DDN) course. It was like teaching via Zoom in a remote classroom. In this case, Olson taught international media to students in a classroom in Pugsley Hall, but that had a physical connection allowing students to communicate verbally and visually from other locations across the state.
Olson taught this class from 2004-2008 before it was entirely replaced by one-on-one online connections.
In August 2009, he co-founded SDSU’s first fully online graduate program. The 32-credit accredited master’s degree in Mass Communication offers mid-career professionals the opportunity to earn a graduate degree in just under two years while continuing to work in their day (or night) job. In fall 2020, 24 students were enrolled.
This compares to a high program of 41 students in 2016 and reflects an overall decline in the number of students entering journalism over the past decade.
The total enrollment in the School of Communication and Journalism was 241 as of fall 2020 (293 if you count agricultural communication students, who take most of their journalism courses but graduate of college in agriculture). The peak was 326 (350 with comm ag) in 2014. Enrollment in communication studies has remained stable between half and sixty.
Basic writing always valuable skills
“I’ve always maintained that basic journalism skills – concise and objective writing, editing, interviewing, and insight into what’s important – are valuable in any career,” Olson said. “I am saddened by the disappearance of newspapers, but I also see the opportunity for graduates with a background in journalism to use their skills in a much wider range of communication-related positions, while having knowledge of the media. freedom of the press and knowing the media.
With fewer newspapers in homes and fewer high schools offering newspaper and yearbook courses, many new students are not exposed to the field, Olson said.
When Olson was taking journalism classes, about 85% of students did their summer internship in traditional media. In recent years that percentage has been around 15. “This summer we have set up 46 internships and again 85% are not in what some call mainstream media – but rather in advertising agencies and companies. private companies, everything from running social media for a bar to public relations for a tree farm. Everyone has a story to tell. We help graduates tell stories, no matter who it’s for, ” Olson said.
Students encouraged see beyond South Dakota
Melisa Goss Farke, 2018 Masters graduate and now Content Writer at Paulsen Marketing Communications in Sioux Falls, has been awarded an International Fellowship in Cambodia through the Pulitzer Center in Crisis Reporting. The opportunity presented itself due to Olson’s international class on media, his international connections, and his encouragement to Goss Farke to pursue the scholarship.
She focused on human trafficking, a world far removed from the more mundane topics she now deals with like agriculture, rural electricity, and higher education in South Dakota.
She said her exploration of human trafficking had equipped her to “tell a story no one wants to hear,” which is the title of a talk she once gave.
In addition, international travel has helped her as a professional by making her comfortable meeting people from all walks of life.
Mission to China changed Olson
Olson’s interest in international journalism was sparked by a five-month SDSU exchange program with the Department of Foreign Languages at Yunnan Normal University in Kunming, China, in 2002. He taught the English and learned ‘a tremendous amount of another totally different culture and myself. , Later publishing an academic article titled “Rich American Teaches in China.”
Upon his return to SDSU, he learned how his students were “incapable” of the world outside of America.
“I asked them to identify a foreign publication, a journalist or an athlete. Most did not have an answer for any category.
So he created International Media, his favorite class.
“It’s fun teaching because there is so much to learn, and although I am the leading international media expert in South Dakota, I still know very little about it. And the students know even less. So it’s really fun to present students with such great content, ”he said. A weekly assignment consists of following and commenting on an international publication.
He has taught International Media and Introductory Masters in Mass Communications 12 times and they are ranked one-two on his preferred class list.
Also on this list (sorted by order) are Journalistic Typography (taught 21 times), Health Journalism (four times), and Magazine Writing (22 times). N ° 6 – “Everything else. I love to teach!
Westwick takes reins June 22
Olson said he was ready to teach a class or two in retirement, if necessary. Administrative responsibilities will be assumed on June 22 by Joshua Westwick, Associate Professor in the Communication Studies Program and Associate Director of the School of Communication and Journalism. Olson expects a smooth transition to the veteran liner.
The retirement comes at a time when the college newspaper and radio station are shifting from extracurricular to extracurricular.
The transition has been under discussion for several years and with the steps taken over the past school year, Olson is comfortable with the procedures in place. College counselor Susan Smith left in September 2020 for a position in Sioux Falls. Faculty member Jim Helland stepped in then and will play a larger role in 2021-2022, Olson said.
While the weekly and the FM station will remain independent student voices, “they will be more closely tied to our classes,” said Olson.
He cut his teeth at The Collegian as a reporter during his junior and senior years after transferring from the Oklahoma Wesleyan. He then worked for two years at the Ortonville (Minnesota) Independent before returning to Oklahoma Wesleyan to work in public relations. While there, he also had his first chance to teach – a profession he found to be a calling.
“I can call my career good. No major regrets that I didn’t do what I wanted to do, ”said Olson, who now looks forward to spending more time with his grandchildren and pursuing various hobbies and interests.
Retreat gathering on Facebook live
Olson’s retirement program will be available via Facebook live at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, June 18. To see it, head to the South Dakota State University School of Communication and Journalism Facebook page (@sdsucojo).