UI journalism professor gains tenure and new position leading undergraduate studies

Starting at the beginning of fall term, Melissa Tully took over as associate director for undergraduate studies in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Her focus is keeping up with the ever-changing curriculum in the journalism school while maintaining the strong foundations in place.


Katina Zentz

Professor Melissa Tully poses for a portrait in the Adler Journalism Building on Sept. 17, 2018. Tully recently became the new Director of Undergraduate Studies in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Kinsey Phipps, News Reporter

Professor Melissa Tully has been appointed associate director for undergraduate studies in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication after gaining tenure this fall.

At the start of the fall semester, she organized a social for new journalism majors. Students were able to speak with Tully and other faculty members over pizza in an informal way to get to know those they may have never gotten the chance to, she said.

Tully joined the UI faculty in 2011 as an assistant professor after earning a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was hired to teach Introduction to Multimedia Storytelling, a course that is a prerequisite for all journalism majors at the UI, she said.

Since then, Tully became heavily involved in developing courses and programs devoted to media studies for the J-School.

“[Tully] has a lot of experience developing classes, and she’s added a lot of courses to our curriculum that are now really crucial for our students,” said Assistant Professor Rachel Young, who has worked alongside Tully since 2013.

“She has a really good idea of how our curriculum needs to evolve, and she’s already done a lot of that work even before taking over as director,” Young said.

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The associate director position is meant to serve as a direct conduit for students to faculty and is served in three-year terms. The maximum terms a person may serve is two, said David Ryfe, the director of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

The position is usually held by a faculty member who has gained tenure and has either been involved or has a special interest in the undergraduate program at the UI, he said.

Approximately a year ago, Tully started the conversation with Ryfe to take on the role of associate director. Working on the undergraduate committee since starting at the UI, Tully had an idea of how the undergraduate program worked and ways to improve upon what is strong.

“We are a program that focuses on, highlights, and strongly believes in writing. That’s not going to change,” she said. “My vision is to make sure those foundations are maintained but also, they keep up with changing times. If we can balance those two things, we are going to be in a really great position.”

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One focus of the 2018-19 school year is developing more advanced-level courses for juniors and seniors to take before graduating and entering the workforce, Tully said.

She works closely with other faculty to gain input about what kinds of courses are needed for the changing journalism field and how to build those courses in the curriculum, many of which will be available to students the fall of 2019.

“The curriculum is always in constant motion, and it has to be, given what’s happening in the industries that we serve,” Ryfe said. “What Professor Tully is going to be doing is constantly monitoring what’s needed to enhance the curriculum for the undergraduates. There’s no one better in the school to do that than her. I’m super excited to have her, and I look forward to seeing what she and the undergraduate committee is able to come up with.”