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Leaving to return

A USF director is stepping down from his position to return to his first love: teaching.

Director of the School of Mass Communications Edward Jay Friedlander will step down as director by August 2009, followed by a two-semester sabbatical — or leave of absence — from the University.

During Friedlander’s 14-year tenure, the school was able to achieve reaccreditation three times after being put on probation. The Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications accredits the school, which is one of the few journalism or mass communication schools in the United States accredited by this council. There are about 400 such schools in the nation, 111 of which are accredited, according to the council’s Web site.

Also, during his time as director, he helped raise $4 million for the school, build and rebuild computer labs and a television studio and triple the number of graduate and undergraduate students.

“I’m so grateful to him for the wonderful work he did in growing that school,” said Eric Eisenberg, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. The School of Mass Communications is housed within this college.

Friedlander’s time as director was longer than most, Eisenberg said.

“The average chair of a department is maybe four or five years,” he said. “Fourteen years — that’s a tremendous amount of service.”

Friedlander came to USF in 1995 after serving as the Department of Journalism chair at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock. He said he came because he was enticed by the larger media market.

The program was on provisional accreditation status when he came, Friedlander said.

“The greatest satisfaction I got was when we got our first full reaccreditation,” he said. The school received full reaccreditation in 1996, then again in 2001 and 2007.

Friedlander said he has enjoyed his time as a leader but wants to return to the classroom because he doesn’t get enough interaction with students as director.

“It’s where I get my greatest satisfaction,” he said. “In the classroom, you can see people grasp concepts that they will then use to better their lives.”

As director, Friedlander was able to teach one class a semester of about 17 to 18 students, but said that wasn’t enough.

“I have fleeting contact with students,” he said. “My influence on those 35 students (a year) is pretty nominal.”

Eisenberg said he’s happy Friedlander isn’t permanently leaving the University.

“The only good thing you can say about it is that after the sabbatical, Jay’s (Friedlander) coming back to the faculty,” he said.

Friedlander will not go from director to teacher right away because he needs time to readjust to the classroom setting.

“When you’ve served as department chair or director for a period of time and finish that term, the University will give you a sabbatical to get ready for the classroom,” he said.

He will take his sabbatical for two semesters and hopes to return in the fall of 2010 to teach. He said he will teach whatever classes need educators but most likely photojournalism or magazine-writing classes.

Though colleagues agree Friedlander will leave big shoes to fill, students and faculty should not expect to feel massive repercussions.

“I wouldn’t expect anyone taking his place to augment massive changes that would necessarily affect students,” said Randy Miller, associate professor in mass communications.

To replace Friedlander, the University has created a search committee. Headed by Victor Peppard, chair of the Department of World Languages, the committee hopes to have someone selected by the end of the academic year.

The committee will conduct an international search for a new director, Eisenberg said.

“I’m confident that we’ll attract a really solid group of candidates from which to choose,” Peppard said.

Associate professor Dan Bagley said Friedlander added stability to the school. Bagley was interim director when Friedlander was hired as director.

“He’s done a great job here,” Bagley said. “I’ve sat in the corner office, and I can tell you it’s no fun.”

Rick Wilber, assistant mass communications professor, was a part of the search committee that picked Friedlander 14 years ago. He said the school would be affected by Friedlander’s departure because it’s unclear who will take over.

“We’re going from a steady hand we’re all familiar with that’s been successful to an unknown,” Wilber said.

Miller said that though students shouldn’t expect any impact, it’s hard to tell whether faculty will feel any changes.

“In some cases, people try to speculate, but it’s hard to say,” he said. “You just don’t know.”

USF’s budget crisis — which caused the University to trim $50.4 million from its budget — did not deter Friedlander from the school. In fact, it kept him around.

“If it hadn’t been for the budget crisis, I would’ve stepped down two years ago,” he said.

He said the school is operating close to the edge and that his replacement’s greatest challenge would be to rebuild some of the things the school has cut because of budget problems.

Friedlander chose to leave now because the school is in the middle of a reaccreditation cycle. It will not be evaluated again until 2012.

“I’m leaving in the middle of that process to give my replacement enough time to get a handle on things,” he said.

When Friedlander returns, he said he looks forward to teaching and being more involved with students.

“You become a little part of them,” he said. “If they’re successful, you’re successful, too.”