New media arts faculty: Lemke fills journalism study void

Hannah Kendall, Student Life Editor

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Following the retirement of long-time Pacific University Journalism professor Dave Cassady in May of 2019, the college’s media department and Index staff searched for months to find the right person to fill the position.

The new professor needed to be someone who could truly revitalize the program. Someone who could bring a fresh energy to the student-run newspaper, a professor that could modernize curriculum and build an improved reputation for the journalism major. That person is Spokane, Wash. native Dr. Jeslyn Lemke.

Lemke is undertaking a complete overhaul of the journalism program and hopes to “shift the journalism program into being more proficient in today’s digital media.”

Altering all journalism syllabi to accommodate for multimedia components is one of her biggest priorities; planning to implement this in part by integrating a social media or online component to every course.

Along with redesigning the journalism curriculum, Lemke now advises the Pacific Index, teaches two classes and oversees three senior capstone projects.

She admits it can be overwhelming at times, yet the transition to Pacific’s new journalism professor has allowed her to do her own exploration and learn where she fits in too.

Lemke first dove into journalism at age 19 while studying for her undergraduate degree at Eastern Washington University.

As a student reporter, Lemke gravitated toward the exciting, controversial stories full of drama or scandal.

“I never wanted the responsibility of assigning stories or layout,” Lemke said. “I liked meeting people — I just wanted to be out there reporting.”

After receiving her PhD in journalism from the University of Oregon in 2017, Lemke left the west coast to teach journalism at Rhode Island College for two years. There, she built their journalism program from the ground up, designing a multimedia curriculum from scratch.

Yet the culture of the northwest pulled Lemke back home, and a position at Pacific seemed to be the perfect fit.

What drives Lemke’s passion for journalism is her deep-rooted interest in people.

People of interesting backgrounds and wacky lifestyles fascinate her. She excludes no person. “I like the freaks and I like the rich people,” she said.

Along with her natural curiosity of people, Lemke also has a strong sense of social justice.

She “writes for the oppressed,” and believes journalism to be at the core of every healthy community. Through writing, teaching, and reporting, Lemke says she’s found a way to enact change.

“There’s a lot of evil in the world,” she said. “With the tools you have as a reporter and teacher, you can do a lot of good to promote change and help things get better in your little piece of the world.”

What few know about Lemke is that she sells raw wool as a side job. Just look up WoollyDelight on Etsy, and Lemke has an assortment of alpaca locks and sheep fleece for sale.

When she began selling wool in graduate school, she fell in love with farm animals from the wool vendors she bought from.

“I’m a farm girl at heart,” she admits. Now, Lemke has four alpacas and five sheep.

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