About Candace Perkins Bowen, MJE: Candace Perkins Bowen earned a bachelor’s degree from Northern Illinois University (NIU) in newspaper journalism and a minor in English education and her master’s from NIU in journalism education. This focus started in junior high when an English teacher she had and admired in seventh grade hand-picked a ninth-grade group to also put out the school newspaper. She was hooked! She went on to be an editor of her high school newspaper, and, though she started college thinking she would be a journalist herself, the opportunity to tutor and coach other students reminded her of that first love so she tweaked her major so she could teach high school journalism.

To that end, she taught journalism and English and advised the student newspapers and yearbooks in a Chicago suburb and in Fairfax County, Virginia. While teaching, she joined the Journalism Education Association, the only national organization for high school journalism teachers and media advisers, and she focused on student press rights and materials to support continued teacher education. As president, she was a plaintiff in ACLU v. Reno, helping to ensure that classroom teachers would not be held legally liable for websites their students access when not following school acceptable use policies.

She was hired at Kent State in 1995 to oversee a regional high school journalism association, which she helped grow into the statewide Ohio Scholastic Media Association, which she now directs. In 2001, she received a grant from the American Society of Newspaper Editors to run one of only six workshops in the country to train high school teachers at two-week, all-expense-paid, on-campus programs. This ran every summer from 2001 to 2015. Meanwhile, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation gave Kent State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication a $1.2 million endowment to set up the Center for Scholastic Journalism and hire the Knight Chair in Scholastic Journalism – Mark Goodman, Esq., long-time lawyer and director of the Student Press Law Center.

Goodman, as the chair, and Bowen, who is the Center’s Director, conduct research about scholastic media, including a census of the state of the field and other studies about students’ ability to use their voices. They have hosted symposiums to help others pass state legislation to protect student journalists.

Interview Questions

[MastersinCommunications.com] Could you please provide an overview of Kent State University’s Master of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication program’s Journalism Education specialization, and how it is structured? What topics are covered in the core curriculum and concentration coursework, and what are the key learning outcomes students can expect from this program?

[Professor Perkins Bowen] The Journalism Education (JE) concentration grew out of a concern that too many high school teachers are drafted by their principals to advise the newspaper or yearbook and teach journalism, even though they have had no training in the field. A team of four friends who were Journalism Education Association officers and advisers of nationally award-winning publications began to develop the program in 2005, rolling out the first classes in 2007. They believed the core must include law, ethics, reporting/writing/editing, advising student media, research methods, and societal role. Electives should help students learn the latest hands-on and visual elements, thus these have changed and adapted over the years, but the core remains updated though basically unchanged. The original 36-credit program was reduced in Fall 2019 to 33 credits to mirror the requirements of the School’s general journalism master’s degree.

Students can enter the program any semester – fall, spring or summer – and do not need to follow a strict sequence of courses. They also may take a semester off if, for instance, spring is a hectic time for yearbook advisers.

Each course blends the essential knowledge of that particular area (e.g., court cases that impact student media or ethical dilemmas advisers and their staffs may face) but handles these with an overlay of how to apply these in the classroom. For this reason, we have a mix of classroom teachers who want to learn more about journalism and an increasing number of current newsroom professionals who want a master’s degree and the pedagogy necessary to teach in some level of higher education. It’s been a valuable mix as they learn from and help each other.

[MastersinCommunications.com] Kent State University’s Master of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication, Journalism Education specialization, is offered fully online. May we have more information on the online learning technologies that this program utilizes to facilitate student engagement with course material, as well as interactions between students and their instructors and peers?

[Professor Perkins Bowen] Currently, the learning management system is Blackboard, though the University plans to move to Canvas in the next year. Like so many online instructors, ours have learned how to improve engagement with elements made more accessible during the pandemic. Instead of the cumbersome video in Blackboard, most of the JE instructors use Zoom and have various other digital components. Each class is a combination of asynchronous and synchronous delivery. Weekly discussion boards and a one-hour-a-week “chat” keep students from plunging ahead without proper discussion and instructor input. While the chats are not required, they are strongly encouraged, students speak highly of them and appreciate the chance to get to know classmates and faculty better. Everyone participates in the chats, although, on occasion someone needs to miss, and they are archived and accessible for those situations.

Most faculty members have office hours and all are easy to contact through email. No one has ever wanted to take a course on campus, and, at the moment, that isn’t an option for anyone [due to Covid-19]. But electives would be a possibility in the future when classes return to face-to-face.

[MastersinCommunications.com] For their final graduation requirement, students of Kent State University’s Journalism Education program are required to complete a master’s professional project. Could you please explain what the required deliverables are for the professional project and the online support structures that students have access to during their work on their culminating experience?

[Professor Perkins Bowen] Professional projects are meant to provide a means for students to demonstrate the application of knowledge and skills learned through study in the School of Media and Journalism graduate program. Professional projects are flexible and designed to help the student — and others in the field —now or in the future. However, they must meet three requirements: include a research proposal and a final research paper plus deliverable project suitable for publication on air, in print, online or distributed for instructional purposes.

Students must take a one-semester Master’s Professional Project course, which I currently teach. During that class, students must fill out a worksheet that helps them come up with a potentially successful project. Using that, they seek members for their committee: The chair must be either myself or Professor Goodman, while the other two can be instructors they have had, others in the School (one student did a project on ethics and was able to have a noted Poynter Ethics fellow on the School’s faculty on his committee though she doesn’t teach our ethics class), or even another appropriate expert from elsewhere. The chair works most closely with the student on the paper and project, but committee members offer suggestions, too, and must approve the proposal and be the panel that hears the student’s defense of the project and final paper – this is usually on Zoom.

Some recent highly successful examples have included websites with a yearbook-focused legal guide, curriculum and other support to develop converged media in a high school program, and a news literacy handbook with curriculum for not only journalism and English classes, but also for math, health and social studies.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What role does faculty mentorship play in the Journalism Education specialization, and how can students make the most of these mentorship opportunities and support systems? Additionally, what online career development resources and academic services are available to students of this program?

[Professor Perkins Bowen] I am the program director and adviser to all the students, by email, by phone and by video chat – whatever works best for the student. This begins when each student first expresses interest in the program until they graduate. Because JE instructors come from all across the country and are “hooked into” the scholastic media community, each tries to connect students with others for help. They often know about openings nationwide or even ways students – who often are current classroom teachers – can run their programs more effectively.

Students are encouraged to present their projects and research to appropriate scholastic media publications and conferences – and many do. A few have helped with the Center’s research projects, though distance has made that more complicated.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What advice do you have for prospective students in terms of submitting a competitive application to the program?

[Professor Perkins Bowen] Students apply directly to the JE program, a plus because that means they pay essentially the same as in-state students, no matter where they live. They need to include a goals statement that shows a clear interest in teaching at some level. Our students should be open to the possibilities of encouraging their students to use their voices to make a difference. We think censoring student ideas runs counter to good journalism education. The diversity of the student body is a big plus – from teachers who just inherited the journalism program, to those who have been teaching quite a few years, to newsroom pros who want to transition to the classroom.

[MastersinCommunications.com] What makes Kent State University’s Master of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication program, Journalism Education specialization unique, and a particularly strong graduate degree option for students?

[Professor Perkins Bowen] Perhaps the most unique part of the program is the instructors. Almost all of them have taught in high school and/or college and advised student media. Our faculty includes five former Dow Jones News Fund National High School Journalism Teachers of the Year plus two recent graduates are the 2020 and 2019 Teachers of the Year. We also have two National Yearbook Advisers of the Year on faculty. The former director of the Student Press Law Center for more than 20 years and now the Knight Chair in Scholastic Journalism at Kent State teaches our scholastic media law class.

Thank you, Professor Candace Perkins Bowen, for your excellent insight into Kent State University’s Master of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication, Journalism Education program!