So, after two years as dean, what’s it like not to be dean?


Starting today, I’m finding out what it’s like not to be dean of the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Now I’m working on creating a Center for Mobile Media.

Gary Kebbel

Now working on Center for Mobile Media

It’s been two years of what I think are decent accomplishments  – but you decide, they are summarized below.

In addition to my work at the college, I was appointed to President Obama’s U.S.-Russia Bilateral Commission subsection on media. At our first meeting in Moscow last year we discussed the need for strong and innovative journalism. I also have been able to work for the State Department, training journalists in Russia, Taiwan and Kenya in the past two years and Tunisia and Latvia before that.

It’s been a pleasure working the past two years with Knight Foundation and with Carnegie-Knight dean colleagues to help strengthen community news ecosystems.

So here’s what I’ve been working on:


$1.94 million in two years


  • Hired Pulitzer-prize-winning data journalist and new product developer, Matt Waite
  • Hired new Ph.D. from Wisconsin, (Bryan) Ming Wang, for social networking and public relations
  • Was seeking another faculty member in public relations
  • Was seeking associate dean to develop Center for Mobile Media


Matt Waite

Prof. Matt Waite discusses how the worlds of journalism and drones collide. (Photo from Waite)


  • Hired assistant dean for finance
  • Hired chief of staff


  • Freshmen enrollment up 24% in 2011 and 30% in 2012
  • Applications to the college are up 57% in 2012


  • Center for Mobile Media, in process
  • Drone Journalism Lab, to study drones in news gathering, to research the law and ethics of such practices and to create handbooks of best practices. We received the first national grant for drone journalism.
  • Jacht student advertising lab, a professional integrated marketing communication agency, specializing in social media
  • Nebraska News Service, a state news reporting lab with about 100 news clients who have a total a circulation of 200,000
  • Collaboration Lab, for students of all disciplines across campus to work, trade ideas or hang out
  • Multimedia Lab created from former “wet” darkroom


  • New product development
  • Mobile application development
  • Data journalism
  • Data visualization
  • Marketing agency experience
  • Public relations and political campaigns
  • Covering state government
  • Covering Lincoln’s refugee community
  • Covering communities that host the Olympics
  • Covering Charlotte before the Democratic National Convention
  • International reporting trips to Moscow and Sochi Russia and New Delhi, India


  • Created an exchange agreement with Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia
  • Sent professors to Tsinghua University in Beijing, China
  • Created an exchange agreement with Southwest University of Political Science and Law, Chongqing, China
  • Built ties with the International Center for Journalists for work in China and India
  • Created innovators in residence program with innovators from Russia, India, South Korea


  • Created faculty-wide strategic goals committee to determine where to focus resources for maximum impact
  • Created faculty-wide college structure committee to examine ways to converge and collaborate among communication disciplines
  • Worked with local PBS station to teach in its HD digital studios
  • Increased sequence heads’ supplemental pay by 7.5%
  • Bought iPads for all faculty


So, what’s it like not to be dean? It’s much calmer, slower and quieter. I had time today to read not only The Sunday New York Times, but also the magazine. And I read the Lincoln and Omaha newspapers. Later today, I’m starting to read a history of the House of Plantagenet. Heaven knows why, other than because I can.


  1. Chris Fruitrich says:

    Gary …
    I am proud to have worked with you as we learned — under fire — what the digital journalism future was all.
    You have taken the topic far beyond those interesting times and should be awash in congratulatory messages for the work you accomplished at Nebraska.
    I will watch with interest as the Mobile Media Center grows and attracts the attention it deserves.
    And I remain hopeful that your departure does not mean that the UNL communications department will waddle backwards into a “City Council Reporting For Newspapers” mentality. The students deserve better.
    Maintain the momentum, my friend, more grand things remain out there!

  2. I would suggest the next initiative you undertake is to merge Journalism and Broadcasting into one integrated “new (or whatever you call it) journalism” track, that’s what more and more J-schools are beginning to do.

  3. This is an impressive list of accomplishments, Gary. You are an immensely talented person and a good friend. Hats off to you!