From Big Vision to Concrete Impact

During the past 15 years, a $10 million gift from the Hubbard Broadcasting Foundation has allowed SJMC to develop some of today’s best communicators and breathe new life into the curriculum.

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of the Murphy Reporter.

As the 2016 election season gears up, candidates in races across the nation are looking for any edge they can get. If they’re smart, they might just rely on the social media principles outlined in the research of Elizabeth Housholder, a Ph.D. candidate and Hubbard Fellow at the University of Minnesota’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Housholder’s work wouldn’t have been possible without her Hubbard Fellowship, which provided her a summer’s worth of funding to pursue her studies. “I was so excited to get the fellowship,” she said. “It meant I could focus on my academic work for the summer, instead of having to get another job.”

Housholder is one of more than 80 students and faculty members who have benefitted over the years from a $10 million gift from the Hubbard Broadcasting Foundation. The gift—given in 2000—is the largest the School of Journalism and Mass Communication has received since formal journalism education began at the university in 1917.

Fifteen years later, the gift’s transformative impact is clear. It has funded students who have gone on to win multiple Emmy Awards and who have worked at both local and national media outlets. It has supported faculty who have shared their expertise as top practitioners in their field. It has funded the kind of cutting-edge technology and programs that students need after they graduate.

And the best news? The work is just beginning.

A Gift Designed to Make a Difference

Stanley S. Hubbard, a 1955 graduate of the U, is part of an enormously successful media family that includes his father, Stanley E. Hubbard. Stanley S. Hubbard’s children also run portions of the Hubbard broadcasting companies. The Hubbards have long been supporters of both the University of Minnesota and journalism.

In 2000, as SJMC struggled to fund projects to upgrade technology in Murphy Hall, the Hubbard Broadcasting Foundation stepped forward with the gift. “We put it in good hands,” said Stanley S. Hubbard. “We completely trust SJMC Director Al Tims and his staff.”

While the funding did provide some immediate technology infrastructure upgrades, the gift was large enough for the school’s leaders to think even more ambitiously about how to support students, faculty and big ideas. “This gift set the stage for the school,” Tims said. “It’s allowed us to provide a state-of-the-art environment for our students. It’s allowed us to compete globally for the best graduate students.”

One of those beneficiaries was recent Ph.D. recipient Meagan Manning, who has studied media coverage of the 20th and 50th anniversaries of the March on Washington and the 20th, 30th, and 45th anniversaries of the march from Selma to Montgomery. She also examined coverage of the Chicago Freedom Movement from the 10th anniversary to the present and open housing campaigns in Milwaukee.

For her, the Hubbard Fellowship was a lifesaver. “I might have spent my summer working or grading papers, but instead, the fellowship lifted that burden so I could think deeply about my research,” she said. “That was priceless.”

Previous recipients of Hubbard funding are making an impact on the world today. McKenna Ewen, a 2009 graduate who received a broadcast scholarship from the Hubbards, is now an award-winning video journalist for The Washington Post who has earned White House News Photographers Association honors and seven regional Emmy Awards.

He said the scholarship helped make the University a financially viable choice for his family.

“It also pushed me to work harder and make the most of my education,” he said.

Hubbard funding has also been used to hire some of the best people in the news business to teach courses. Scott Libin, a onetime news director at the Hubbard-owned KSTP in St. Paul, has worked at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., and was hired as a SJMC Hubbard Senior Fellow. In addition to teaching several courses for SJMC, Libin also assists students seeking newsroom experience. “I oversee some student internships, and I try to help students get really valuable experiences,” he said.

Thinking Bigger

The Hubbard family has always been one that dreams big. They turned a single, tiny radio station into a nationwide network of television and radio stations, and they maintain an uncanny ability to see the next big trend and capitalize on it.

That sweeping ambition extends to how SJMC aims to use the Hubbard gift, including its latest program addition, a first-of-its-kind B.A./M.A. program in strategic health communication. “We used some of the income generated from the Hubbard endowment to seed-fund that initiative,” Tims said.

The program will enroll its first students in summer 2016 and is designed to capitalize on the vast expansion in healthcare employment in the Twin Cities and nationwide. Students learn how to develop campaigns for disease prevention or public health improvement. They use behavioral sciences to target messaging and measure the effectiveness of their strategies. Over time, the program’s graduates will help fill the scores of new positions in healthcare communication predicted to open up in the coming years.

SJMC has also used the gift to encourage others to donate: a matching grant component to the original gift unlocks additional funds only when other donors support the school. That gift structure has created 17 new scholarships and fellowships valued at almost $2 million dollars.

Looking Ahead

When the Hubbards gave the gift in 2000, they wanted to help modernize SJMC, and through important technology upgrades, they did. But they could not have anticipated all the ways that the media would change in the intervening 15 years, from Facebook to Buzzfeed to news delivered straight to our smartphones.

While the gift will always support students and faculty, from undergraduates to Ph.D. candidates to best-in-their-field practitioners, a portion will be reserved to pursue the new opportunities that arise in that changing media world.

In a way, it is the exact approach that the Hubbard family has had as they have grown their business from a single man running a radio station to a company that employs thousands. Stanley E. Hubbard and his son couldn’t have predicted how media would change in the nine decades they have been in the business. But they always saw opportunities to serve their communities better than anyone else. “We do our work because we have a vision,” Stanley E. Hubbard said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

McKenna Ewen shaking hands with President Barack Obama