Wotjek Chodzko-Zajko’s plan for the College of Media

By Maggie Sullivan, Staff Writer

The last thing on Wotjek Chodzko-Zajko’s mind was serving as the interim dean of the College of Media following Jan Slater’s resignation. An experienced administrator and professor, Chodzko-Zajko said he was very focused on serving as the dean of the graduate college, a role he will continue to hold this year, when the provost asked him for his leadership.

“I was, at the time, really focused on the graduate college,” Chodzko-Zajko said, “But when the opportunity came out to assist the students, faculty, and staff of media as they decide how to move their programs forward I was happy to do it.”

Interim Provost Ed Feser said he believes Chodzko-Zajko possesses the skills to do just that.

“He’s a good listener, and he has a lot of respect for shared governance,” Feser said. “I think he’s got the skill set that we need right now; the combination of experience and listening skills that are needed to figure out what we need to do next for the college of media.”  

Chodzko-Zajko will be joined by Bill Bernhard, who was appointed to serve as the interim executive associate dean of the college of media. Bernhard will also continue his role as Associate Provost for Faculty Development.

    Sign up for our newsletter!

    “I continue to be very impressed with Wotjek’s ability to listen,” Bernhard said. “His energy is remarkable. All the expectations I’ve had of him have been true.”

    Chodzko-Zajko said he believes he was chosen because of his experience in administration. He said he believes he has the necessary skills to lead the College of Media through this transformative time.

    “I plan to begin by listening carefully,” Chodzko-Zajko said. “I want to learn more about what makes the College of Media great.”

    While Feser said he hopes Chodzko-Zajko will not have to serve in this position more than an academic year, he said at this point it is difficult to say how long exactly he will serve in this role.

    “It depends on what we determine would be the best path forward for the college,” Feser said. “We will need to step back and take a look at some of the issues that have arisen in the college in the past year or so, and see where we go from there.”

    Chodzko-Zajko’s leadership comes at a time of uncertainty for the college of media, with a number of departments exploring moves to other colleges on campus. Feser has said there are no immediate plans to dissolve the college at this time.

    “What I’ve emphasized is we’re committed to these disciplines; what we don’t know is what is the best way to support them,” Feser said. “That has been flagged by the units themselves.

    My goal for media this year is to figure out the best path forward to support these disciplines and programs.”

    Chodzko-Zajko and Bernhard both emphasized a commitment to working with faculty, staff, and students in the college to determine the best path forward.

    “There is no master plan when it comes to the future of the college,” Bernhard said. “These are questions all stakeholders will be shaping and determining, and this includes faculty, staff, students, and alumni. It’s a decision we need to help facilitate, not direct.”

    In terms of the immediate future, Chodzko-Zajko said he is most concerned with getting everything prepared for the fall semester and making sure the departments and their disciplines are well-represented and taken care of.

    “The College of Media has a storied history,” Chodzko-Zajko said. “In a world that’s changing, it has never been more exciting to be a part of the College of Media, and its services matter now more than ever.”

    Chodzko-Zajko said he will be listening hard to all the key stakeholders in the college on what they think their unit has to offer to promote the college’s educational mission.

    While he admitted the job would be at times difficult, Bernhard said he has complete confidence in Chodzko-Zajko that he will succeed in this position.

    “When I was first a department head here, I remembered going to a seminar and hearing him speak on his leadership and his experience and I just thought, ‘Wow, what a remarkable individual,’” Bernhard said of Chodzko-Zajko. “I continue to be really impressed with him.”