Karla KennedyThe School of Journalism and Communication recently welcomed Dr. Karla Kennedy to the role of Scholastic Journalism Outreach Coordinator. Kennedy started at the George S. Turnbull Portland Center in March and is also serving as the new Executive Director of the Northwest Scholastic Press Association.

We are very excited to have Karla Kennedy join the SOJC community,” said Dean Tim Gleason. “The SOJC has a long commitment to scholastic journalism and to Northwest Scholastic Press, and to recruiting the best students while increasing the diversity of our student body. Karla is an award-winning scholastic journalism teacher with enormous passion for freedom of the press and for the student press. She is already building connections and programs that will strengthen student journalism in Oregon and will encourage students to pursue careers in journalism.”

Kennedy had a 17-year career as a high school journalism teacher and advisor in her home state of Florida. She has also taught at Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville and the Summer Journalism Institute at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami. She received her PhD from the University of Florida in 2011.

After Kennedy became recertified for public school teaching in Florida in 2000, she decided to pursue a Master’s in Mass Communication with a focus on student media advising at Florida International University. There she met Dr. Lillian Kopenhaver, a mentor, professor, and dean emeritus at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

“Karla is a delightful, gregarious, dedicated person who is engaged in what she does and works very hard to bring out the best in everyone around her and to see young people achieve at the highest level,” says Kopenhaver.

Kennedy continued to provide mentorship to her own students, just as Kopenhaver mentored her. Alexandria Smith almost decided against pursuing journalism as a career until Kennedy became her teacher. “Dr. Kennedy taught me the importance of the First Amendment and how it can be used to create change,” says Smith. “She taught me how to use my voice with a pen and paper.”

Smith recently received her degree in Telecommunication-Production from the University of Florida. “I never imagined I would have a friendship with my teacher,” she says. “I often call her for advice about life and my career search. She provides wisdom and honesty. Also, she makes me laugh.”

In 2005, Kennedy was a fellow at the American Society of Newspaper Editors High School Journalism Institute at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. In 2007, the year she began her PhD program, Kennedy became the first African American to be named Journalism Teacher of the Year by the Florida Scholastic Press Association.

In her new role, Kennedy is the Director of the Northwest Scholastic Press Association at the University of Oregon. The association has been housed at Oregon State University for the last several years. Kennedy would like the Northwest Scholastic Press Association at the UO to become a clearinghouse for information for high school journalism advisors.

A specialist in both scholastic journalism and student free speech rights, Kennedy is advising Oregon high school students and advisors on the First Amendment.

Kennedy also is responsible for helping to recruit students for the SOJC. One of her goals is to work to ensure that more minority students in Oregon have opportunities to be journalism majors, and eventually, media professionals. She wants to help them “really understand that they have a place in media and they can see themselves there, not necessarily just in front of the camera but also becoming editors and producers so they have more control over it.” She is currently working to establish an Oregon chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists.

“I think that this position is a great way to help high school journalists and I think it is very innovative,” she says. “I have been so warmly received here. It seems like everyone feels like this position is needed and they’re going to provide me support to be able to do the best work that I can. That has been extremely rewarding.”