A love of learning and a willingness to try new things are two key characteristics of Dr. Debora Wenger’s approach to her life and career. For that reason, it didn’t come as a big surprise to the dean of the Meek School of Journalism & New Media when Wenger asked about getting her doctorate in journalism at Kingston University in London.
“Absolutely,” Norton said. “The European doctorate includes an option for PhD by Publication, enabling you to integrate your existing published scholarship and produce an accompanying dissertation that will both itemize your contribution – and probably set your research agenda for the rest of your career. This is truly important for the Meek School.”
Dr. David Rogers, formerly Head of the School of Humanities at Kingston University and now Director of the Kingston Writing School, first invited Wenger to consider applying for a PhD by Publication during a visit to Mississippi as part of his efforts to initiate the study abroad link that now exists between the two universities and to discuss ways in which their respective journalism departments might collaborate. Wenger made her application to Kingston’s doctoral program in early 2015 and will be officially awarded the Department of Journalism and Publishing’s first ever PhD by Publication in January 2017. According to the Kingston website, the degree recognizes applicants who have “undertaken and produced research, and developed their research skills and subject knowledge to doctoral level.”
Dr. Alison Baverstock, the chair of Wenger’s PhD committee, says that the scholarly validation of work that has a relevance to both the workplace and the academy, through PhD by Publication, has a particular significance.
“For profession-oriented disciplines such as journalism, and in my case publishing, the combination we offer students of professional practice at the highest level, along with academic thinking, is the ideal basis for seeking employment,” said Baverstock. “We teach students key practical skills that they can put into use immediately, but also develop their ability to think and plan – leaving them able to function in their chosen industry now, but also in future to work around, and hopefully solve, problems in the workplace that we don’t even yet anticipate.”
Dr Rogers adds that “it was a great pleasure to have the chance to work with Dr. Wenger and to learn more about her research. Like the University of Mississippi, Kingston University takes pride in its commitment to degree programs that combine traditional academic analysis with practice and professional-based skills. Having such a respected and widely published academic journalist such as Dr. Wenger, whose research focuses on the vital interface between the academy and industry necessary for pertinent curriculum development, choose to complete her PhD with us not only testifies to that shared commitment but also validates the PhD by Publication degree as a way to enhance it.”
Wenger, herself, found the process both challenging and rewarding.
“Getting a doctorate has allowed me to reflect on the nature and importance of scholarship,” said Wenger. “The process has made me more enthusiastic than ever about pursuing the answers to questions that are relevant to the profession and the academy.
Wenger’s thesis focused on the intersection between professional practice and university teaching. Her external examiner was Prof. Chris Frost, former head of the Association for Journalism Education in the UK and current director of the Centre for Responsible Journalism at Liverpool John Moores University. The internal examiner for Kingston was Prof. Normal Clarke, a widely published author on the faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Baverstock, who co-founded the graduate publishing program at Kingston, said their evaluation of Wenger’s thesis is significant in adding validation of work that spans both the profession and the academy.
“Its complete acceptance – meaning no changes required at all, which is very unusual in the UK – confirms not only the influence she exercises in both her profession and her institution, but also the role model offers her students – in being willing to subject her work to scrutiny, and stand up for what she believes. We also think it’s highly significant that her work has been validated in the UK, and covers research carried out within the US and Europe; truly summing up the international contribution she has made.”
Wenger will attend Kingston’s graduation ceremony in January and says she will likely be thinking during the ceremony about something Baverstock once wrote to her in an email.
“Aged 87 Michelangelo wrote on a piece of work ‘Ancora imparo’ – which translates as ‘I am still learning’. It’s always good for students to see that their professors are learning too.”