Former Associate Dean and Turnbull Center Director Al Stavitsky spent 22 years as an educator and administrator at the SOJC
Stavitsky says he is so far enjoying his work at UNR and the Reynolds School. “It’s been…really exciting” he says. “I parachuted in in the very busy exciting time toward the end of the semester. We had our awards banquet and honored our high-achieving students and thanked our donors. It’s been a great way to get to meet people and understand the setting here. Everyone has been very welcoming. It’s similar to the SOJC – there’s a real sense of community and a real commitment on the part of the faculty to student success. We have very loyal alumni and friends of the school and everyone’s made me feel quite welcome.”
Stavitsky joined the SOJC as an assistant professor in 1990. He was named associate dean in 1997, professor in 2004, director of the Turnbull Center in Portland in 2006 and senior associate dean in 2008. He earned his PhD in 1990 from Ohio State University, and has worked in television and radio as a news director, anchor, investigative reporter, talk show host and sportscaster.
“I’m proud of lots of things that we accomplished through the years,” he says of his time at the SOJC. One of his accomplishments was serving as the founding director of the Turnbull Center. “I’m really pleased how that program developed and the way that the center added value to the SOJC and served as a gateway to the Portland community.”
The SOJC community will remember Stavitsky as a funny, engaging educator and administrator. “I still think about how Al was able to identify how best to deliver a message to a given audience,” says Elon Gluclich ’09, who took J201 Mass Media and Society with Stavitsky and is now a reporter at the Bend Bulletin. “Whether it was rapping about FCC laws, or incorporating standup comedy-style wit into his lectures, he was one of the more engaging instructors I’ve ever had.” One can find videos of Stavitsky rapping, and dancing, in videos about Campaign Oregon on UOregon’s YouTube channel.
“One day Al and I had to give a presentation to all of the Portland Metro communication managers and he was incredibly encouraging and supportive,” says Strategic Communications master’s student Libby Shannon. “It was the first time that I had ever presented to a group of strangers in a professional setting. In all honesty, I was really uncomfortable, but Al coaxed me along. He stretched me out of my comfort zone and with that came growth.”
Stavitsky created “Al Pods,” podcasts about media-related subjects, when he taught J201. He even created video lectures to send back to his J201 class when he attended a global public broadcasting conference in Amsterdam in the fall of 2006. “I had a lot of fun working with technology at the SOJC, and with my colleagues always tried to be on the front edge of using technology in education,” he says. “I remember fondly the project that I did with Dean Gleason (before he was dean) and associate professor Bill Ryan back in the early ’90s, before the web. It was a distance education project where we transmitted live via satellite some of the J-School’s pre-major courses out to community colleges across the state that didn’t have communication curricula.” He also worked on the SOJC’s undergraduate and graduate curricula.
Michael Huntsberger PhD ’07 produced the Al Pods in Amsterdam, and was Stavitsky’s GTF for J201. He is now assistant professor of electronic media in the Mass Communication department at Linfield College. “I learned many important lessons from Al about scholarly research and teaching,” says Huntsberger. “He made me aware of how important it is to be enthusiastic and engaging in the classroom. He taught me to keep my teaching current, especially in a course like Mass Media and Society where we talk about current issues in journalism and mass communication.”
Although he’s enjoying his new position, Stavitsky says he will miss Oregon. “I really will miss teaching but I hope to remain as active as I can in the classroom,” he says. “Maybe down the road if I step down from the deanship, I’ll go back to the classroom, teach the big introductory lecture and start podcasting again or whatever the crazy new technology of the day will be.”
In 1996, Stavitsky was honored to receive the UO’s Ersted Award, a university-wide teaching award for new faculty. “I think there have been four Ersted Award winners in the history of the SOJC. There are such fabulous teachers in the journalism school that to be recognized among them was very special to me.”
“It’s a bittersweet time,” Stavitsky says of his transition to UNR. “It was difficult to leave Oregon after all those years. I have so many friends among the faculty, staff and students and it was such a wonderful home for me. But I’m very excited about having the opportunity to be a dean of a fine program.”