Donald Heider is the first appointed dean of Loyola University Chicago’s School of Communication. Dr. Heider is an award-winning broadcast journalist and the author/co-author of four books. Before appointed as dean, Heider previously served as Associate Dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. As associate dean at the University of Maryland, Dr. Heider was the chief academic officer for the College of Journalism and had responsibilities for instruction, curriculum, academic affairs, and the college cable channel.
He has also served as associate professor, graduate advisor, and broadcast journalism sequence head at the University of Texas at Austin, and has taught at the University of Colorado, the University of Mississippi, and American University. Dr. Heider worked in broadcasting, including positions as syndication producer for the Gillett News Bureau in Washington D.C., special projects producer and manager of Special News in Nashville, Tenn., and executive producer at WTVC-TV in Chattanooga, Tenn. During his broadcasting career, he has been recognized with five Emmy awards and an Associated Press award.
In an exclusive interview, Dr. Heider tell us all about his career – and how to follow in his footsteps.
During your broadcasting career, you have been recognized with five Emmy awards, as well as an Associated Press award. What tips do you have for aspiring broadcasting professionals? (Any secret Emmy advice?)
Take as many classes as you can and [research] the professor! In this day in time, our access to the internet and finding information on people is so great, make sure you do your research on who will be teaching you.
There are many professionals at Loyola’s School of Communication that have Emmys under their belt. These professors hold their students on a rigorous level of expectations, and understand what professional work is. As a student, one also has to be willing to work hard to reach that level of rigor to prosper in the real world. Professors at Loyola understand how to prepare students well and how to teach them to work hard. It is crucial to treat classes of your major like a job, take it seriously. Impress a professor and take it seriously! Show up ready to work, and be respectful of each other. Peers in class may be able to help you find a job.
Interning is important, I recommend two internships. They are for you to learn and see what you like and don’t like.
Specifically, do you have any internship tips for those interested in the communications and journalism fields?
[When it comes to internships, make] sure to pick two very different types of organizations.
Do one in Chicago or whatever major city is near you and do one in a suburb or smaller town. Don’t be afraid to branch out into areas that are out of your zone.
The smaller the place, the more experience you get because the organization actually needs you to be hands on and help.
An internship is what you put in.
You can’t be overly assertive, you must be polite and consistently make an effort.
Make sure you can get answers and find information as quickly as possible, this impresses bosses.
Making a good impression is key to get a call back!
In 2011, you were elected vice president of the Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication (ASJMC) and will serve in that position until 2012, when you will become president-elect and then president through 2014 of the non-profit, educational association composed of some 190 JMC programs at the college level. You are also a member of AEJMC, ICA, BEA, and NCA. How have professional organizations advanced your career? And do you have any tips for how students can optimize their participation in professional associations in order to advance in their career?
I feel like a lot of my career has been based off of people I’ve met and have been able to network with alongside my involvement. For students, it is important to get involved in organizations on campus and get as much hands on experience as possible. RTDNA has a convention with SPJ, the Society of Professional Journalists, and there are a lot have regional meetings. SPJ has a local chapter in the city called the Chicago Headline Club. It truly is a great way to network and get involved in professional development activities. There are often “student tracks,” which is programming over four days or the amount of time of the convention. Also, [they] hire student reporters, which gives you a free pass to the convention and allows you to write daily digest stories.
From broadcasting, you transitioned to education and are now the first appointed dean of Loyola University Chicago’s School of Communication. Can you tell us more about the new Master’s program in Global Strategic Communication that Loyola is offering?
The program launched two years ago. The idea is that more PR firms are local services and people want more international experience. There are two overseas programs in London and Beijing, China. One of the faculty members also worked in South Korea in PR.
Anybody can call a program global, but we have the evidence to prove that we are global, which is the faculty member. The experience of meeting professionals in person is way different than reading about it in a textbook.
Beijing is something we knew would be interesting because there is still government monitoring so there is a lot of censorship and restrictions. Europe is different because of standards and China is complicated in a good way.
Your other area of expertise is Digital Ethics, and Loyola has an entire Center and publication dedicated to that. For those interested in writing for the publication, how should they go about pitching?
All a person has to do is either write me directly. We pay for each article we publish. The process is someone sends me a pitch and I either approve or make corrections to it. The piece also has to be quality to get published.
I will offer other ideas if needed, and we typically like to publish one piece every ten days.
Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for clarity, but the essence of the responses have not been altered.