About the Drake University SJMC

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About the Drake University SJMC

The School of Journalism and Mass Communication – SJMC – is committed to developing educated professionals. Our School couples hands-on training in professional skills with a strong liberal arts education.

Our students are prepared not just for their first job, but for becoming leaders in their fields. Professional education begins early in the School. First-year students take SJMC courses and are encouraged to participate in campus media opportunities so that they are soon ready to take advantage of the hundreds of internship opportunities available to Drake SJMC students in Des Moines and all over the world.

In addition, the SJMC collaborates with the College of Business and Public Administration to offer a Master of Communication Leadership. The MCL is an applied career-development program aimed at professionals with at least five years of experience.

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students with oculus rift at Drake school of Journalism

First-year students test out virtual reality using an Oculus Rift in their Multimedia Lab.

Dean and Professor: Kathleen Richardson
Associate Dean: Kelly Bruhn
Assistant to the Dean: Mallory Quinn (records)
Administrative Assistant: Shari Tenney

The School of Journalism and Mass Communication awards a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and mass communication and a Master of Communication Leadership.


407 undergraduate majors in 2016-17
10 graduate students in 2016-17


13 full-time faculty/4 part-time faculty


Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. Drake is among 115 accredited programs worldwide. It is the only accredited program in a private institution in the Midwest, and one of only 15 in the nation. To earn accreditation, schools meet nine standards, which address such issues as class size and diversity within the faculty and curriculum. Accreditation reviews occur every six years. Drake’s program has been continuously accredited since 1972, most recently in 2017.


For the class of 2016, within six months of graduation 100% of SJMC graduates reported working in jobs within their fields, other professional jobs of their choice or attending graduate school.


Entering first-year-students must meet Drake University’s admission requirements. Transfer students must have a cumulative GPA of at least a 2.25 on a 4.0 scale. For a list of courses required to complete the degree, please see the check sheets on the individual majors pages.


The School of Journalism and Mass Communication houses six undergraduate sequences. The school’s undergraduate “three legged stool” includes academics, extracurricular activities and at least one internship.


First-year students need not declare their sequence right away. During that transition they are listed as Open majors.

Core Competencies

SJMC graduates should be able to . . .

  1. Understand and apply the principles and laws of freedom of speech and press, including the right to dissent, to monitor and criticize power, and to assemble and petition for redress of grievances.
  2. Demonstrate an understanding of the history and role of professionals and institutions in shaping communications.
  3. Demonstrate an understanding of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and, as appropriate, other forms of diversity in domestic society in relation to mass communication.
  4. Demonstrate an understanding of the diversity of peoples and cultures and of the significance and impact of mass communications in a global society.
  5. Understand concepts and apply theories in the use and presentation of images and information.
  6. Demonstrate an understanding of professional ethical principles and work ethically in pursuit of truth, accuracy, fairness and diversity.
  7. Think critically, creatively and independently.
  8. Conduct research and evaluate information by methods appropriate to the communications professions in which they work.
  9. Write correctly and clearly in forms and styles appropriate for the communications professions, audiences and purposes they serve.
  10. Critically evaluate their own work and that of others for accuracy and fairness, clarity, appropriate style and grammatical correctness.
  11. Apply basic numerical and statistical concepts.
  12. Apply tools and technologies appropriate for the communications professions in which they work.
  13. Take ownership of their own academic experience.
  14. Be engaged with the community: the university, the local community and professional groups.
  15. Cope and thrive in the workplace.

Double Majors

Two degrees or majors for the price of one is very attractive to many students and parents, and it is certainly possible to double-major in SJMC and some other field. About half of SJMC students double major or dual degree.

3+3 Program

The SJMC/law 3+3 program allows students to complete virtually all journalism and mass communication requirements in the first three years, including requirements for a specific undergraduate SJMC sequence. If admitted to the Drake University Law School, the student then counts Law School courses taken in the fourth year as the area of concentration required of all SJMC majors. The fourth year also constitutes the student’s first year in Drake Law School.

Admission to the 3+3 program is by application to the dean of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Because of the rigorous nature of the program and the tight scheduling involved, admission is limited to exceptional and highly motivated students. Students may apply to the program during their first semester on campus.

Area of Concentration

To assure depth and focus, the SJMC student must complete a 21 credit-hour block of non-SJMC courses approved by the advisor. At least 12 credit hours in the concentration must be in courses numbered 100 and above. The concentration may be taken in a single department or as a unified area of concentration crossing departmental lines. Recognized minors may also serve as an area of concentration, depending upon structure and credit hours required. Some that have proven beneficial include political science, management, theater, and the social sciences.

For students majoring in advertising or public relations, the minor in marketing in the College of Business and Public Administration is an attractive option.

Distinctions of SJMC

Drake journalism students with a Twitter Mirror

Students experiment with a Twitter Mirror during Social Media Strategies class.

Involvement from the first semester in major courses and in campus media are unique aspects of Drake’s SJMC. Most competitive SJMC programs at state universities require students to take a general education core during the first two years of study. Students in these other programs may not encounter courses in the major until the junior year.

Advisors encourage first-year students to participate in campus media activities, such as the Times-Delphic student newspaper, Drake Magazine, Drake Political Review, the Annual and the Drake Broadcasting System, including KDRA-FM. There are also campus chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists, Public Relations Student Society of America and an Ad Club.

All sequences include senior capstone courses that pull together the student’s coursework and experience into a comprehensive project that showcases professional, creative and critical thinking skills. The public relations seniors complete a campaign for a non-profit client and the advertising seniors work with a local business. The magazine media, news and digital media production seniors collaborate on a multimedia website, Urban Plains.

The SJMC’s magazine program has achieved national prominence. The Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (ACEJMC) team that visited in 1999 first termed Drake’s magazine program the strongest undergraduate sequence in the country, an evaluation reaffirmed in subsequent accreditation reports.

Magazines published by students either as laboratory projects or as independent publications routinely win national honors from the Associated Collegiate Press, the Society for Professional Journalists, and the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. Drake students have been selected for nationally competitive internships offered by the American Society of Magazine Editors, Scripps Howard Foundation, Dow Jones and the Bailey Lauerman and Olson advertising internships.

SJMC’s broadcast facilities include television and radio studios, and digital audio and video editing systems. KDRA can be heard locally on 94.1, and streaming its signal to the web. Students can take advantage of unique and extensive opportunities to gain training and experience by working with Drake athletics to produce live sports events, including covering Drake sports events for ESPN3 and regional and national sports events at Drake stadium.

Class projects in all majors offer students a chance to interact with Des Moines community members while providing service to a host of non-profit or charitable organizations. Such projects also enable students to work closely with faculty as colleagues outside of the traditional classroom setting.

Many excellent internships are available to students locally, regionally and nationally during the summer and throughout the school year. The SJMC fills hundreds of internships every year, facilitated by the SJMC internship coordinator. The accrediting team noted that “virtually any student who wants an internship is guaranteed to receive one,” and about three of every four internships are paid. The team found students to be enthusiastic about their internship experiences and employers were equally enthusiastic in their satisfaction with Drake students and their preparation for internship work. The School requires all students to take JMC 40, a one-credit workshop that focuses on job search strategies and resume preparation. Iowa’s presidential caucuses offer students special opportunities to work with international media and with political campaigns intensively every four years. Drake is home to both the Harkin Center for Public Affairs and Citizen Engagement and Vote Smart, a nonpartisan political research organization.

This focus on applied education extends to the SJMC’s master’s program, where classes have completed projects for such organizations as the World Food and Music Festival, Boys and Girls Clubs and Big Brothers Big Sisters.


The 2017 ACEJMC accreditation report cited “a hardworking, productive and dedicated faculty who are passionate about teaching”; “award-winning students who are professionally oriented and partake in multiple internship opportunities”; “the ‘Drake way’ system of advising which focuses on lifelong mentorship between students/alumni and faculty”; a focus on diversity imbued throughout the curriculum, and strong connections with business and professional communities.

Employer evaluations of SJMC student interns show a high level of satisfaction with student preparation, attitude, initiative and skill. As the 2005 ACEJMC accrediting team noted in its report, “Drake prides itself on having a hands-on, practical, skills-based curriculum that prepares students for careers in journalism and mass communication. Media professionals are full of praise for Drake journalism school graduates. Students are involved in student media and obtain multiple internships by the time they graduate.”

Drake students who intern with local media outlets or corporations often parlay those internships into full-time employment after graduation.

Alumni who chose not to pursue a communications career offer positive testimonials in support of their SJMC degree. Lawyers, health care professionals, retailers, entrepreneurs, coaches, corporate executives, even a romance novelist say they owe much of their various kinds of success to the writing, reporting, problem-solving and presentation skills that came with their majors. This also includes the depth and breadth of the “liberal education” that went along with their professional education.

Capstone experiences involving outside clients provide students and faculty with an excellent mechanism for professional review of student skills and curricular effectiveness. Recent clients for campaign capstones in the advertising and public relations programs include the National Pork Board; Anawim Housing, a charity for low-income homeowers; Pella Windows; Tone’s Spices; the Iowa community of Perry; the Young Women’s Resource Center, and  and the Iowa Department of Education.

History of the Drake University School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Communication education at Drake has a long and distinguished history, beginning in 1919 when the College of Commerce, Finance and Journalism was established. From that day to this, studies in journalism have retained a place of pride in Drake’s array of professional curricula. A separate School of Journalism was created at Drake in 1962.

Early leaders in communication education at Drake included Gardner “Mike” Cowles, who served as department head from 1928-29, while he was also managing editor of The Des Moines Register and Tribune. A year later, Cowles hired Dr. George Gallup to head the department. Gallup had served on the faculty at the University of Iowa and went on later to begin his national polling organization. These early leaders set communication education at Drake on a course that emphasized a strong relationship with practicing professionals, hands-on learning and applied research. Course offerings included newspaper management, advanced reporting, specialized writing and “newspaper trends.”

By the early 1930s, there were 24 JMC courses, including four advertising courses, high school journalism for teachers, dramatic criticism, play reviews and “camera reporting,” the department’s first venture into photojournalism. In a parallel development, a Radio Department began in the College of Fine Arts and moved into the College of Commerce and Finance the following year. Radio courses could be taken as part of the news-editorial sequence in journalism.

The decade of the 1960s was a time of major development for the newly established School of Journalism . The first television courses were offered in 1960. By mid-decade, Meredith Hall – designed by internationally famous “less-is-more” architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe – was built to house the school, and a radio-television department was established. Hugh Curtis, former editor of The Ladies’ Home Journal , was named the first dean of the school. The news-editorial and advertising sequences of the school won accreditation from the American Council on Education for Journalism (ACEJ) in 1972. In 1980, advertising and news-editorial were accredited again, and the public relations sequence was accredited for the first time. In 1981, the name of the school was changed to the School of Journalism and Mass Communication to reflect its diversity of offerings. It was reaccredited in 1987, 1992, 1998, 2005, 2011 and 2017.