Childers Steps Into JEM Interim Director Role
As the College of Communication and Information builds its new Information Integrity Institute, with now-former director of School of Journalism and Electronic Media (JEM) Professor Catherine Luther at its lead, Courtney Childers is stepping in as interim director of the school.
“Dr. Childers brings significant research, teaching, and service experiences to the interim director role, including leadership of many school, college, and university committees and strategic planning initiatives,” said Dean Joseph Mazer. “Her experiences will serve the school well during this time of transition.”
Childers, an associate professor in the Tombras School of Advertising and Public Relations, has strengthened her leadership skills in recent years as executive director of the Adam Brown Social Media Command Center and as the college-wide chair of UT Social Media Week from 2011-2021. Childers will serve as interim director of the School of Journalism & Electronic Media until the successful completion of a national search for a permanent director, which will launch by Summer 2023 to have the new director on board by July 1, 2024.
Childers said she had to weigh taking on this new position, as teaching and student /alumni engagement are her passions and that would change in a director role. She was encouraged to take the position by mentors and leaders who saw leadership potential in her, and she’s already experienced how her passions can be redirected in an administrative role.
“I am truly blessed to have the opportunity to serve in this leadership role, because I still get to engage with students and alumni, it is just in a different way. Having been in ADPR for 16 years, I wasn’t often able to work closely with our JEM colleagues. They are a great group of people, and the JEM faculty has made me feel so incredibly welcome during this time of transition,” she said. “The development and maintenance of strong relationships with various audiences and stakeholder groups is something I enjoy and that this position allows me to do a lot of.”
While Childers said she has long looked towards other leaders to learn what to do (and what not to do), she also took the first two weeks of her appointment to go on a listening tour. She spoke with those in leadership around the college and university to ensure she gained advice and insight into how to best perform in her new position.
The middle Tennessee native said this opportunity has special meaning to her, a first-generation student, as it brings a small bit of family history full circle. While she is the first in her immediate family to earn a college degree, her uncle actually graduated from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, with a journalism degree from the College of Communications in 1987. While she is and will always be an ADPR faculty member, Childers said she sees CCI as a cohesive community whose members lift each other up via their work and support.
“I’m just as dedicated to ADPR as I am the college as a whole, so if there’s a chance that I can give back to any group in the college to build a better future for CCI as a whole, that’s what I want to do,” she said.