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Dr. Catherine Staub: Leading the Drake SJMC into its Next Great Era

Photo courtesy of Catherine Staub

In November 2021, associate professor Dr. Catherine Staub was named the new dean of the Drake University School of Journalism and Mass Communication (SJMC), succeeding current dean Kathleen Richardson after June 2022.

         “The Drake School of Journalism and Mass Communication is a nationally recognized school with a commitment to excellence and innovation,” Staub said in a Drake press release. “I am honored and excited to serve our students, my colleagues, Drake University, our alumni, our donors and our community as the next dean.” 

         Staub has been an SJMC faculty member since 2015, teaching primarily in Drake’s magazine media and master of communication leadership programs. She holds the Peggy Fisher and Larry Stelter Chair of Magazine Journalism and is the director of the E. T. Meredith Center for Magazine Studies. Staub also held a position as a member of the Drake SJMC’s National Advisory Council.

         Staub grew up in Wisconsin, a first-generation college student and the only child from a blue-collar family. She is married with two college-age children and enjoys spending time with her family outdoors, especially in the snow.

         “People will roll their eyes, but I will say this — I am obsessed with downhill skiing. It is my favorite thing in the entire world,” Staub said. “I’m also training for a sprint triathlon. I’ve run a few marathons and a bunch of half marathons.”

         She is the founder and former CEO of Lexicon Content Marketing, a Des Moines brand media marketing agency that provides its clients with communications, marketing, public relations, photography, graphic design and more. Before that, she was a learning and development manager and national implementation team consultant for Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, an associate editor at Meredith Corporation (now Dotdash Meredith) and a high school English teacher. 

         “[Lexicon] gave me an opportunity to kind of pull all of these things together — my passion for journalism and storytelling and all of that, plus content marketing as we called it at the time,” Staub said. “We had interns from Drake over the years and I hired almost all [of my entry-level employees] from Drake.”

Staub serves as a judge for the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) Ellie Awards and is the former head of the AEJMC Magazine Division. She also serves as the current president of the Rotary Club of Des Moines, the oldest and largest such club in the area, and will be president and a member of the club’s foundation board.

         As Drake University President Marty Martin said in his introduction of Staub during the 42nd Annual Bucksbaum Lecture, “Staub is a Bulldog many times over.” She has earned a B.S.E. in English and education, an M.A. in journalism, an Ed.S. in education and Ed.D. in educational leadership, all at Drake.

         “Every experience I’ve had professionally, personally and throughout my time as a student, informs and influences what I bring to my current role as a faculty member and what I anticipate bringing to my new role as dean of the SJMC. Obviously, from my list of degrees, I’m a Bulldog through and through,” Staub said. “In my role as dean, I will continue to share my enthusiasm for Drake and the SJMC with prospective students, current students, alums, faculty, staff, industry professionals and the Des Moines community.”

David Wright, former electronic media professor and associate dean, was a part of the committee that hired Staub. Wright said Staub is a great choice for the position.

“First off, her business roots in this town are so strong,” Wright said. “She’s run media businesses, and she’s got an incredible grasp of that. And her savvy with business in journalism, I don’t think there’s anyone in the state you can come close to what she has with that. She also has a really keen eye for where the industry is going, which is like alchemy, you know, trying to figure out where the industry is going to go.”

         Staub’s priorities as the new dean include reaccreditation, which includes large reports and a site visit as well as fundraising, promotion and student connection.

         “We want to make sure we are known for being really student-focused, student-centered. A lot of people think of SJMC as a big family of sorts,” Staub said. “[I’ll be] working as a liaison with organizations that may hire our students [or] already do hire our students [as well as] making sure that our curriculum is at the edge of what students need to be doing and how we retain those core skills [students need] yet prepare students to be really nimble with whatever is new.”

         Staub hopes to continue to foster a diverse student body, staff and faculty in her new role.

“Journalism functions best when the journalists are reflective of the audiences to which they are trying to communicate,” Staub said.

         Meredith Hall’s renovation could potentially complicate Staub’s first year as SJMC dean, but she said that the transition would be challenging, renovation or not, because of the transition into her new leadership position alone and the difficult task of filling current dean Kathleen Richardson’s legacy of leadership.

“Dean Richardson has been here for a very long time. She is well established, well known. She is recognized as a really innovative leader who makes things happen. So no matter what, those were big shoes to fill, to be cliché,” Staub said. “There are lots of things that the SJMC is absolutely doing right and that we want to continue. There’s that balance of how much of being successful [is] by simply continuing a great trajectory that we’re on and how much of being successful is new initiatives, new vision, new goals and accomplishments.”

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