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Dr. Tamara Zellars Buck Interview

How do you like living in Cape Girardeau?

I enjoy Cape Girardeau. I am from a very small town of about five thousand people that’s near Cape. And I never thought that I would live here, I always thought to move in a big city or somewhere. Cape is a good place to raise a family, and its close enough to the big cities. If I want to go to a metropolitan area I can. So, I like to go to the Memphis, Nashville, and Chicago. And those all pretty close. So, I like Cape Girardeau, I like everything about it.

I understand you recently received an award. Could you please tell me about that?

This semester I was team teaching with another professor …this year, rather. We won the college of liberal arts a teaching award and it’s was for our diversity class. It was a decision of my chair person to team teacher to put together to team teaching situation. She thought it would be interesting to have diversity in communication, talk from perspective the black women who working journalism and white man who work advertising. So, with my newspaper background I tell… the way I receive information and interpret information, it is a lot of different from his advertising background where they are persuasive communicators. So, that, not just the race and of gender made us diverse, but also our professional background really works together to give our students very different perspective so that was exciting to get an award for that.

Why did you choose this profession/field? How does this position fit into your overall career goals?

It was just interesting. I wanted to be a journalist since I was ten-years-old. I knew that I want to work on newspaper when I was ten- years old. And I did a lot of things between that time and my first job. That all went towards that I worked for my high school newspaper, I attended journalism workshops over the summer in high school. I went to Mizzou for serval years. And before I dropped out for a year and transferred here. And ultimately, I got my Journalism degree here. But in my first week working as a professional newspaper report. And in end of the week, the editor called me in to the office and he said: what do you see yourself doing in five years? And I said teaching. It was funny because five years later I was thinking I will be teaching in high school. Somewhere teaching English and Journalism another way. But five years later I was invited to a lunch by the chair of this department, he said you will be a good Journalism professor. What? That was my response. So five years later I left my newspaper position to become a Journalism professor. So, that was not in the plan. But it kinda was going to Journalism to Journalism education. So, this is job that I love because I get to talk about something I love every day, and that is the Journalism. I have a best job in the world. I don’t think myself do anything else.

Do you think that diversity should be included in the professional development for both faculty and staff? Why or why not?

Absolutely, we should work diversity into every conversation, I believe. It is so important that faculty and staff because we are training people we are students to do what we love. It is really important they understand the world is different, people of the world is different. We have a different background, different cultures, and different religions. So many different experiences influence who we are. We need respect that. Actually, anticipate that there will be, if not conflict, at least differences that have to be addressed. Different mindsets they had to address, different thought processes. We have to talk about it. So, absolutely faculty who are on the front line working with students from diverse cultures and work with other faculty from diverse cultures. Certainly, we need to training for that reason. And staff also work with our students. Staff are very diverse here, they interact with diverse students. So, we all need training. I think it people are afraid to admit to bias. In my mind, everyone has a bias, we grow up with bias to acknowledge them does not make it any less real. If you acknowledge, you can work pass them.

Do your diversity courses should be a part of the curriculum for every student? If so, why?

Yes, I think every student needs to recognize how diversity plays a part in what they do professionally. Our diversity class is mandatory for every student multiple choice in the department. And it’s interesting how many students don’t recognize their own prejudices they have until we get in to the course and make them talk about it and make them admit. I do that in safe space. If journalism and TV professional, we are professional communicators… if we are interacting with people from different groups. So are nurses, so are teachers and are police offices and low offices for politicians, everybody interacts with diverse groups. So, everybody needs understand how diversity impacts their position and how their role can impact how we see other people. Absolutely, I think this should be required on this campus. Everyone should have to go through some sort of diversity course. It would be best for it not to be some journalism course but it to be related to their profession that they are getting in.

Could you please share your professional experiences?

I was a public relations for two years and I am non-profit work in workshop. And for mentally handicapped and disabled people and then I was a journalist for five years. And I did education reporting which kind of goes along with my interest in education. And I have been here in university teaching journalism since 2001. So that is three jobs. All of them related to communication.

What are some diversity and equity challenges that are unique to Southeast’s campus?

I think there a couple. One is that this university has had an influx of international students. And in recent years, I don’t think that the community and including the surrounding and educational community. I don’t think they were ready for there was lack of international population around here. So, people did not know how to interact with people with international students. So, I think it getting be better but it moving very slowly. So, our diversity increase in international student I think we need to be very careful make sure that exposure is not negative for those student because I know a lot of international students have some challenges based on how they are receiving by others. And that has to change. So, that’s a challenge I think we are working on we just can keep working on it. And another challenge is this class. I am a product of the boot heel so I group around here and this is very impoverished region and I think that creates challenges form our student especially come from the boot heel but because they don’t have adequate support they need in a lot of ways to ensure their success. So, if you are a first generation student from impoverished background, you going to have some challenges that you need some support on. And southeast has always recognized that but I don’t think it has been adequately addressed as well as it should.

How does your background and experiences strengthen this academic department?

I have my Journalism degree and my Master degree in Public Administration; and I have Law degree, so my doctorate degree is Law. I am the only in our department with a background in Law. So, they teach me about the resident lawyer. I am also the only... right now for the next month. I am the only racial and ethnic minority in our department. We just hired someone an Indian background. So, that’s exciting because there will be two of us of making a multicultural department again. So, there is not a culture background that is different. There is my professional training which is different from everyone else. I tell everybody have learned from I could run the world as a journalism with public administration and law degree. I can run the world and I just chose teaching. So, I think it strengthens the department just because I am different from everyone else.

What pedagogical changes do you see on the horizon in your discipline?

My discipline specifically is journalism and I really focus on learning by doing it is I can teach the theory but it does not help for my students to just know the theory, they have to work in the trenches to really understand how it all works together, so we have been increasing that every semester. We had a situation just few years ago where our students were not working in our student newspaper. So, how do you graduate with a Journalism degree and you have never work at the student newspaper? We changed that beginning in to 2010, we made pedagogical changes to enmesh student media in our course work and our curriculum, and what I see the changing most in future, they can much more converged with other options. So, now my Journalism students are working much more closely with TV film, working much more with advertisement students, hopefully soon with PR students. So, the change is really going to be on converging, skillsets, and the experiences. So the student truly continue to learn by doing, they also work in a much more real life situation, they work much more changeable, as opposed to doing everything exactly every week. That is the biggest change that I see my approach teaching that way going from being very theory-based, very much hands-on, experiential learning. I don’t see that part of it changing; that would be the next step.


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