Big plans for Willnat


Director of the School of Journalism and Media Lars Wilnat poses for a portait.

Editorial Board

This semester, UK’s School of Journalism and Media welcomed its new director, Lars Willnat, who plans to grow the school through fundraising and unique classes. 

The Kentucky Kernel editorial board recently sat down with Willnat to discuss his plans for the new year. Willnat has a strong base of faculty to help him achieve his goals, but journalism is rapidly changing, which could pose some challenges. 

To help prepare students for jobs in the field, Willnat emphasized creating classes focused on new and emerging media, like virtual reality.

“I think that it is crucially important we know how to write journalistically, but we need to focus on what’s coming, what’s out there,” Willnat said.

Creating classes that give students the skills they need to be successful in journalism will likely be Willnat’s most important goal. UK journalism students get a solid foundational education, but they need multidisciplanary skills — like the ability to work with videos, graphics and websites. 

All-around higher expectations should come with the focus on new media. The curriculum should build on the school’s solid journalistic foundation and add specialty classes that will set UK apart. 

All students should be required, for example, to have a more extensive and well-rounded portfolio to graduate. Students should not graduate from UK with only a few published stories, but rather they should have a solid writing resume, video clips, photography skills and design experience. An ideal minimum could be five published or broadcasted clips per semester.

To really know what the program entails, Willnat could drop-in on courses throughout the semester. While he will find that students are learning the basics well, he will also see areas where they could be learning more.

Journalism students and faculty do well with the equipment they have, but Willnat hopes to improve the program’s hardware by boosting fundraising efforts. 

Students can be confident that Willnat is able to bring about the changes the college needs because he seems excited to make the program stand out. 

His plans are commendable — plans to create a better website, to motivate graduates to donate, and to develop new classes that will make UK graduates ready for a rapidly changing field. A more hands-on approach across the school will help the journalism program thrive.

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