‘Nothing but school:’ Looneys know both sides of the classroom experience

As nontraditional students, Angela and Tim Looney have both served as UI staff and instructors for nearly a decade and worked toward their degrees for more than four years.


Angie Looney

Mary Hartel, News Reporter

Married couple Angela and Tim Looney have seen both sides of the Hawkeye classroom experience — the quick turnaround for instructors to finalize grades at the semester’s end, the rush of cramming for finals as students.

The two have worked as staff members while also enrolled in University of Iowa online master of arts and bachelor of applied studies programs for the past few years. While the pair won’t walk across the stage with their cap and gowns because of canceled commencement ceremonies amid the spread of COVID-19, they will celebrate their accomplishments for graduating as nontraditional students.

Tim Looney

Adjunct Professor Angela Looney, UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences production-unit department instructional-service manager, finished her master’s in strategic communication this semester. Angela has worked as a UI staff member since 2009 and enrolled in her degree program four years ago.

Angela graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a bachelor’s in communications: radio and TV, and said she fell in love with journalism during her first job as a teleprompter operator at a Houston TV news station.

“I just felt like somebody needed me, I was doing an important job, and it was really exciting, and I loved being in the news,” she said.

She’s worked mostly in television ever since — in TV news, as a commercial producer, and a promotion manager — before coming to the UI.

Angela said she chose to pursue her master’s after she compiled videos for the School of Journalism and Mass Communication about the program in which she is now enrolled.

“… It took me a couple of years to really fully figure out how I would do it — why I would do it,” Angela said of her decision to pursue a master’s.

Angela said she wished she had the degree 20 years ago, noting the unconventional style of working in the industry and then learning about it.

“… I’m kind of doing it backward to what a lot of people have done,” Angela said.

Tim Looney, lecturer for TV production courses for UI communication studies, began running the UI’s multimedia equipment checkout in 2012. He became an adjunct staff member about three years ago and is now a full-time instructor. This semester, Tim is finishing up his UI bachelor’s of applied studies, which he began working on eight years ago.

A Solon, Iowa native, Tim said he first enrolled in college in 1984, earning an associate of arts degree from Kirkwood in the late ‘80s. By then, Tim said he was already well into his career of TV production, working at KCRG in Cedar Rapids.

“… I never had time to finish,” Tim said. “I had my career going and then I had a family and, you know, all of that stuff.”

Tim said he always intended to finish his bachelor’s, and started by taking one class a semester, gradually increasing it to two as he grew more eager to finish. The past few years he’s worked full time, taught one night class a week, and enrolled in two online courses.

“The last couple years it’s been nothing but school,” Tim said.

Both Angela and Tim said being students themselves has helped them be better teachers and allowed them to understand the pressures their own students face.

Angela said the experience made her more flexible with deadlines for her students.

“I think it’s really given me an insight to know what they’re going through, and I can better help them navigate,” Angela said.

Tim said the experience has allowed him to relate to his students better.

“I totally get the struggles. I get what a bad course is like,” Tim said. “Like some of these courses, you [just] don’t understand.”

Both the Looneys said they had been looking forward to walking across the stage at commencement, but because of the novel coronavirus pandemic will participate instead in the virtual graduation ceremony.

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Nonetheless, they both said they are thrilled to complete their degrees.

“I’m so excited, and I’m so looking forward to not having homework,” Angela said.

Tim added that he’ll be eager to get back to in-person classes and be with his students.

“I think students are pretty awesome, sure there are some that are jerks, but that’s life,” Tim said. “Most of all, I just respect students because [they’re] trying to figure out where to live and how to do all that grown-up stuff that I’ve already done.”

UI journalism lecturer Charles Munro works with the Looneys in his role as Daily Iowan TV coach. He said the Looneys are a huge asset to the UI.

RELATED: University of Iowa seniors may participate in fall 2020 or spring 2021 commencement ceremonies

“The measure of their value to the University of Iowa has been that they have greatly improved their jobs from the beginning,” Munro said. “They took these jobs and really improved things across the board in terms of organization, decision-making, and responding as best they can to student needs.”

Munro, who was on the selection committee that hired Tim and Angela, noted they are both extremely dedicated to their students.

“… They improved things primarily for students,” Munro said. “They made producing stories easier and better, and I think that made for better students.”