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Southwest Education Council for Journalism and Mass Communication Announces 2021 Educator Award Winner: Dr. Cassy Burleson September 27, 2021

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Cassy Burleson, senior lecturer, Baylor University wins for her exceptional dedication to student success

DENVER ― Oct. 1, 2021 ― The Southwest Education Council for Journalism and Mass Communication (SWECJMC) today announced its inaugural Educator Award winner, Dr.Cassy Burleson, senior lecturer at Baylor University. Burleson was selected for this award for her innovative teaching practices and her exceptional commitment to her students’ education.

As one of her colleagues explained, Burleson transformed the PR program at Baylor University and was essential in the effort to make it a premiere department in the field. Single-handedly, she recruited more than 200 internship sites and formalized intern assessment procedures. In addition to her teaching schedule, she supervises an average of 40 interns each semester and conducts sites visits to each site every semester.

“Cassy is one of the hardest workers I know,” said Dr. Mia Moody-Ramirez, department chair, Baylor University. She is innovative and committed to making sure students are prepared for the job market. She has helped our department institute practices that result in meaningful student outcomes for students. In particular, she spends hundreds of hours each semester coordinating portfolio reviews, doing site visits, recruiting a ‘dream team’ of experts, developing a diverse speakers list and compiling the results of internship evaluations to improve the program.”

Burleson has taught in the Journalism, Public Relations and New Media Department at Baylor University since 2001. She teaches public relations, writing, reporting and editingcourses, and has earned several accolades over the course of her career.

“Deep gratitude to site leaders who saw the value of paying and mentoring interns, students who worked harder and learned faster, supportive colleagues (especially bosses, TAs and work study students), alumni and practitioners all over the country who generously pour their expertise into our program and hire our graduates, and to those who keep our classrooms as free of COVID as possible,” said Burleson. “And to all those who taught me the value of developing courses tuned to the needs of potential employers.”

The SWECJMC Educator Award recognizes a faculty member at a SWECJMC member institution who demonstrates outstanding contributions to journalism and mass communication education. Faculty members at all ranks who employ inventive teaching practices, measurable student outcomes, and/or classroom-focused research were considered for this award. The SWECJMC intends to offer the Educator Award annually going forward.

“We celebrate Dr. Burleson’s work in the classroom and collaboration with her community to ensure her students are well prepared to launch their careers,” said Michelle Baum, president, SWECJMC. “The intention of the Educator Award is to honor the meaningful work of journalism and communications faculty, and we congratulate Dr. Burleson for exemplifying how novel approaches to education can transform learning experiences and empower students to realize their potential.”


The Southwest Education Council for Journalism and Mass Communication promotes the recognition, welfare and progress of journalism and mass communication education in the Southwest part of the United States. Members of SWECJMC include journalism and mass communication programs in institutions of higher education offering the baccalaureate degree in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. SWECJMC is an affiliate of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. For more information, visit https://swecjmc.wp.txstate.edu/.


Hellman Takes on New Role as Graphic Design Specialist for the UNT College of Music September 27, 2021

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Baylor Journalism, Public Relations & New Media alumnus Matt Hellman (BA, Class of 2013) has joined the University of North Texas staff as a Graphic Design Specialist for the UNT College of Music.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree, Matt continued his education at the University of Missouri-Columbia where he earned his Master in Journalism with a concentration in Visual Editing and Management. While working toward his degree, Matt served as Assistant Director of Photography and Archival Manager for the Columbia Missourian news organization.

He spent the last five years as an award-winning print media designer for a Central Texas news company, Granite Publications, and he is a regular contract photographer for Stephen F. Austin State University’s alumni publication, Sawdust Magazine. His photography and design works have been published in more than 150 digital and print publications.

In his spare time, Matt pursues his creative passion for photography by serving as stage manager, photographer and digital director for Solar Rain, a central Texas fire performance collective that performs lead acts at renaissance festivals in Texas.

2021 JPR&NM Homecoming Program to Honor Former Professors September 27, 2021

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Baylor University’s Department of Journalism, Public Relations & New Media will dedicate three walls during this year’s homecoming reception at 3 p.m. Friday, Oct. 15, in Room 245 of the Castellaw Communications Center.

The walls will honor three former JPR&NM faculty members who made an important contribution to our department during their years of service and beyond: David McHam, Doug Ferdon and Carol Perry.

Honoree David McHam

David Mcham taught at Baylor University from 1961-74. He is a retired newspaperman who set a record as the longest tenured journalism professor in Texas while teaching at four different universities in Texas from 1961 through 2015. In addition to Baylor, he taught at Southern Methodist University (1974-98), UTA (1998-2001), and the University of Houston (2001-2015). He specialized in courses emphasizing writing and communication law. Named the outstanding journalism teacher in the nation by the Society of Professional Journalists in 1994, McHam said he “didn’t ever intend to teach.” McHam earned his bachelor’s degree from Baylor in 1958.


Honoree Doug Ferdon

Doug Ferdon, Ph.D., joined Baylor in 1982, as the Lariat adviser and later became a full-time faculty member, teaching Law & Ethics and History of Journalism. He also served as chair while teaching. In his long career at Baylor University, both as a faculty member and as chair, Dr. Doug Ferdon’s primary focus was on students. He mentored, nurtured, and empowered numerous generations of young journalists and public relations professionals. He stayed in touch. He made connections. He wrote untold letters of reference and recommendation.

Since his retirement in 2014, Ferdon has continued as an adjunct instructor, although he said when he retired that he was going to “just read books and play golf.” He didn’t.


Honoree Carol Perry

Carol Perry is a former full-time lecturer (1994-2019) for the Baylor journalism, public relations and new media department, who taught graphics design.

Perry was the recipient of various professional awards from the Texas Municipal League, Texas Municipal Information Officers, Texas School Public Relations Association, National School Public Relations Association and accreditation from the Public Relations Society of America.

She served as the public information officer for the City of Waco and the Waco Independent School District for 21 years.


Professor Bob Darden, alumni engagement chair, will dedicate the David McHam Wall. Senior Lecturer Cassy Burleson will dedicate the Doug Ferdon Wall. Undergraduate Program Director Liz Bates will dedicate the Carol Perry Wall.

In addition to the dedication ceremony, we will have tours of the building. Other points of interest include Associate Professor Clark Baker’s exhibit titled, “Migrant Journeys.”

The reading room display case and outer wall feature the scholarly contributions of JPR&NM faculty whose research is driven by compassion, courage and curiosity. These faculty help make the world a little brighter.

We are also excited to share many new posters and updated signs created by members of the JPR&NM beautification committee. Other updates include classroom collaborative learning environments, updated furnishings and more common spaces for our students to study and work on group projects.

Baylor’s Excellence Funds and the College of Arts & Sciences funded the wall and this year’s beautification projects in the department.

We are grateful!

Mike Blackman, Gone But Not Forgotten September 26, 2021

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Photo courtesy of Mia Moody-Ramirez

Baylor Department of Journalism, Public Relations and New Media faculty, students  and staff  are sad to lose former colleague–Mike Blackman. He died Sept. 23 at age 77. He had been in poor health for several years.

Blackman, who served as the Baylor JPR&NM’s Fred Hartman Distinguished Professor for several years, was a kind colleague who was known for the delicious Christmas cookies and eclectic collection of paintings that he shared with the department each year.

Blackman was a Baylor University journalism alumnus and veteran reporter and editor. He brought several speakers to the department and organized an outstanding alumni banquet.

He was talented and warm-hearted. Blackman became editor of the Star-Telegram in 1986 and led what many described as the transition of the newspaper into a top-rated news organization.

Blackman was a 1967 graduate of Baylor University and The Ohio State University in 1974.

He was vice president and executive editor for the Star-Telegram for eight years, editor for two years, and editorial director for three years. After retirement in 1999 he also worked as senior writer/editor at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. He held the Fred Hartman Distinguished Chair in the Baylor journalism department at the end of his career and also taught journalism at Sam Houston State University.

He was a military policeman in the U.S. Army Reserve and a flight-line mechanic in the U.S. Air Force Reserve and supervised staffs that won numerous local, state and national newspaper awards.

“He was the best friend and coworker I ever had,” Henry Holcomb, a former senior editor at the Star-Telegram, said in a Facebook post.

“Mike’s mother-in-law baked very good cookies and Mike was nice to share them with us each Christmas,” said retired office manager Margaret Kramer. “He will be missed.”

Senior lecturer Cassy Burleson added that she will miss his sense of humor.

“The world is better for his life in journalism and the many friends he made along the way,” she said.

Survivors include his wife, Dorothy Pomeroy Blackman; two sons, Jay Blackman and wife Emily and children Audrey, Juliette and Madeleine in Houston, and Sawyer Blackman, a student at Texas Tech in Lubbock; and two daughters, Molly Blackman of Austin and Emily Blackman of Los Alamos, California.
Condolences to his family, friends and classmates.


Migrant Journeys Exhibit by Photography Professor Dr. Clark Baker September 17, 2021

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The Baylor Department of Journalism, Public Relations & New Media is pleased to highlight Dr. Clark Baker’s photography exhibit titled, “Migrant Journeys.”

During the summer of 2019, Baker taught photography to 20 migrants and refugees through Centro Interculturale di Aiuto ed Orientamento (CIAO) in Syracuse, Sicily and plans to continue this work in 2022.

CIAO offers services to help participants adapt and integrate into Italian society.

Gabriel di Silva, Director, CIAO stated that “… using cameras he had acquired and shipped at his own expense, Dr. Baker taught photography to 20 of our participants. His teaching methodology, connection and care for his students empowered them to produce meaningful and expressive work, and for likely the first time in their lives, they were truly the protagonists in their own life story. I had hoped for such an outcome, but wasn’t sure we could get there. Through Dr. Baker’s commitment and vision we did!”

In addition to taking photos, Baker interviewed his subjects.

“During my journey, I have seen many people die, in the desert, in prison and in the ocean… I pray every single day for those people,” one migrant worker said.

Another explained why he believed it was worth it to come to Italy.

“We are still poor but we get by,” he said. “Here we are equal, the color of our skin is not important. It is true that there are lots of people who do not accept us but I think they should reflect on the misconceptions they have about immigrants.”

Another described his difficulties in making it to Italy.

“We left the shore (of Libya) in an inflatable boat with 125 people and within two hours of the journey 23 people fell into the sea. We tried to help them but many drowned. Among those people there was my friend who I travelled part of the journey with,” he said.

Alumna Valonia Walker, APR, Promoted to Senior Communications Specialist for Aldine ISD September 7, 2021

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Congratulations to Baylor Journalism, Public Relations & New Media alumna Valonia Walker, APR, who was recently promoted to Senior Communications Specialist for Aldine ISD.

Walker joined the Aldine ISD Communications team in June 2019. She holds a bachelor’s degree in public relations from Baylor University and a master’s degree in strategic communication and innovation, and a certification in advanced and digital media from Texas Tech University.

In December 2020, she received her Accreditation in Public Relations (APR).

Before beginning her career in K-12 school public relations, Walker worked as the social media and events manager for Theater District Houston. She helped create a collective voice for Houston’s performing arts scene via digital and print media, managed a bi-weekly Food Truck event, and orchestrated one of the largest free Theater District events, Theater District Open House.

She is also an active member of the Texas School Public Relations Association (TSPRA), Houston Area School Public Relations Association (HASPRA), and the Houston chapter of Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

Walker enjoys telling K-12 education stories of students and staff and can do it in 140 characters or less.
#Bayloruniversity #baylorjpnm #sicembears

News Pioneer and Legend Rick Bradfield Passes Away September 5, 2021

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The world lost a news pioneer and a legend when KWTX Managing Editor, long-time adjunct faculty member and Baylor Journalism, Public Relations & New Media alumnus Rick Bradfield, 66, passed away on Sept. 2, 2021.

Students benefited from his wisdom, patience and sweet spirit. Before Student Media Director Bruce Gietzen was hired in 2019, Bradfield was the primary source of information for majors interested in broadcast journalism.

“Such an incredible person,” said Kennedy Dendy in a Facebook post. She is a reporter and anchor for KEZI 9 News in Western Oregon. “Feels like just yesterday I was sitting in his broadcast journalism class my senior year at Baylor. His teaching and guidance was top notch. Taught me how to conduct my first live shot, and I still think about his words each time I’m reporting.”

In another Facebook post, JPR&NM alumna Amanda Hill Lewis said. “Rick was such a compelling storyteller, I’ll always remember him telling us about his experience covering the Branch Davidians. He will be missed.”

Bradfield’s career spanned 45 years in Waco. JPR&NM faculty and staff often noted Bradfield’s sense of humor, loyalty and strong work ethic. Bradfield, who had been sick for several months, worked right up to the day he passed away. Cause of death is reportedly a heart attack.

“While he hadn’t been feeling well for a few months, in true Bradfield fashion, the dedicated newsman being remembered today as a ‘pioneer,’ a ‘legend,’ and a ‘giant of a man,’ worked until the day he died,’ said KWTX colleague Julie Hays.

He was a Baylor JPR&NM adjunct professor for 25 years. He taught electronic news. Bradfield is also known as being an upstanding human being.

“This one hit like a sledgehammer,” classmate Bob Darden said. “Rick and I were in David McHam’s Journalism 101 (or whatever it was called) together in Fall 1972… there are few people I’ve known longer or respected more than Rick Bradfield. I giant of a human being.”

He loved talking about politics and the news, said Baylor Department of Journalism, Public Relations & New Media Chair.

“My husband, Augie, and I spent many occasions with him and Cassy, and he always made us laugh. I am going to miss his wisdom and contributions to the department.”

Bradfield is survived by longtime partner Dr. Cassy Burleson, sister Nancy Bradfield, and son Rob Bradfield.

Prayers for his many friends, colleagues and family.