Story by Mikayla Marshall, Staff writer
Associate Professor Debbie Owens will be the second woman and first African-American to take over as chairwoman for the department of journalism and mass communication.
“The JMC department has wonderful faculty,” said Gerry Muuka, interim dean of the Arthur J. Bauernfeind College of Business. “Faculty that do their work, who look out for each other, and so when the occasion arose for me to make a decision, it wasn’t easy.”
He said ultimately it came down to Owens because of her time here at Murray State and her experience with the campus and the students.
Owens joined the faculty at Murray State beginning Fall 2002. She has held several positions, including intern coordinator and mass communications graduate program coordinator.
“I appreciate receiving a strong vote of confidence and getting support from my colleagues at Murray State,” Owens said.
She said this appointment to the position represents an extension of her duties and service to Murray State. She will be the first African-American woman to take this position but said this fact has not hit her yet.
“Yeah, I am the first; I haven’t really thought about that,” Owens said.
She said that going from teaching at a historically-black college to a predominately-white college is always eye-opening. In her years at Murray State, she could list the non-white professors in the JMC department on one hand. She said diversity is something she is always working toward and she anticipates that in the coming years more non-white individuals will have more of a presence.
Owens started her teaching career at Redirection High School in Brooklyn, New York. She has served as a lecturer and professor at many universities across the country for many years. She has received several awards, including the Cambridge Who’s Who Among Executives and Professionals in 2006-07 and the Distinguished Service Award at Murray in 2007. The Roundabout Murray Newsletter honored her in the Provost Faculty Spotlight in 2014.
For improving the department further, Owens said that recruitment and retention of students have always been areas of concern for anyone working in higher education. She said she wants to maintain high standards and attract talented individuals who are eager to learn and prepare for exciting careers in our ever-changing industry.
Bob Lochte, Owens’ predecessor, said he hopes for the same goals as the department moves forward.
“An area I expect to address is the growth of internship opportunities for JMC students,” Owens said. “I look forward to working with capable graduates, on-campus agencies and their respective associates as they continue to support our efforts.”
Muuka said Lochte was an amazing chairman and has done much for the department. He said he hopes to see the JMC department continue to have quality programs and faculty even in this time of budgetary crisis.
Lochte will retire at the end of the Spring 2016 term, 28 years after joining Murray State’s faculty in 1988. He said he’s excited to see where the department goes.
Owens will transition into the position for the remainder of the term and take full control at the start of the Fall 2016 semester.