Jacksonville University Professor Profile: Dr. Dennis Stouse

Dr.+Stouse+at+his+desk%2C+photo+courtesy+of+Halley+Powell

Halley Powell

Dr. Stouse at his desk, photo courtesy of Halley Powell

Halley Powell, Writer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Take out your phone and scroll through social media.

Ask yourself—How many of these selfies are doctored? How many of these tweets should be flagged for misinformation? How many of these shared YouTube links are actually Rick Rolls?

Such questions of authenticity have jumped from Facebook trolls into the mouths of people we interact with in our everyday lives. In these days of alternative facts and government conspiracy theories, it’s hard to know what’s really happening in the world.

Which is why we need journalism, says Dennis Stouse, longtime professor of communications at Jacksonville University.

 

Dr. Stouse displaying Jacksonville University plaque, photo courtesy of Halley Powell.

 

“I firmly believe in the power of journalism,” Stouse says. “I think journalism is the savior of democracy because, as the Washington Post says, ‘Democracy dies in darkness.’ And so the purpose of journalism is to bring light to what people don’t want out.”

After 46 years of teaching – 37 here at JU— Stouse is trading in his professor title for a retirement filled with travel to bucket list countries about which he will write articles, quality time with his corgis, and painting watercolors.

Stouse wears his love of journalism on his sleeve—literally. He is proud to wear his T-shirt that reads “Journalism matters more now than ever,” despite disapproving looks from his fellow Publix shoppers who have heard politicians lambasting the profession.

Despite Stouse’s passion for journalism, he has spent a disproportionate amount of time teaching it as opposed to practicing it professionally. But he did not plan on becoming a professor of journalism—or even a professor at all.

“I was a news junkie by the time I was a little boy,” Stouse says. He remarks how, according to his mother, he read newspaper headlines when he was learning to read, and his family would often watch the evening news together.

Stouse joined the student newspaper in junior high and, by the time he was in high school, he was working at the local newspaper and radio station—as well as editing his school’s student newspaper as a senior.

When he majored in journalism at the University of Missouri—one of the top schools for journalism in the United States—and when he got a job as a reporter in Iowa, Stouse had no idea the trajectory of his life would take him back to the classroom.

After winning awards for his newspaper’s revitalized arts and entertainment section, Stouse was approached by the president of Eastern Iowa Community College who offered him a job in public relations for the institution. Gradually, the job shifted to that of a full-time professor. And that’s when Stouse realized he loved something besides journalism.

“I’ve just really loved the students,” Stouse says, “even the ones that can be difficult sometimes. I think Jacksonville University students are some of the nicest students I’ve encountered. I enjoyed being in the classroom with them. I enjoyed playing with them, teasing with them, them teasing me—it’s just a really fun environment.”

Photo of Dr. Stouse, photo courtesy of Halley Powell.

Prior to his arrival in 1984, JU had a fledgling newspaper and no Department of Communications. The same could be said for the other two colleges he at which he had taught.

But because of his leadership and commitment to doing journalism justice, Stouse will have left all three institutions of higher education with solid programs helping students on their way to achieving success.

Stouse says that part of that accomplishment is owed to the support of JU’s management, who allowed him personal autonomy to follow his interests and start new programs and courses, such as communications ethics and a communications senior seminar based around the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

But Stouse’s impact on JU runs deeper than new classes or departments.

“I suppose if I have a legacy to leave,” Stouse says, “it’s in the students who I’ve taught, which is probably over—not just here—but when you add up my other schools, probably over 4,000 students.”

Not only does Stouse remember many of them, but he is in touch with 400 of them on Facebook. Social media has allowed him to see how they achieve success after their time at college. Some have gone on to become professors, at least one is a dean, and another has won seven Emmy Awards.

Stouse will continue to interact with JU students by occasionally teaching online classes, but he acknowledges that, over time, his memory will fade from the campus.

“Once you’re gone and the students who knew you are gone,” Stouse says, “you kind of disappear. You’re no longer here, you know?”