SJMC School History

Homes of SJMC

Close Hall 1924-1940
East Hall 1940-1952
Communications Center 1953-1997
Seashore Hall 1997-2004
Adler Building 2005-present

Historical Highlights

Did you know that The University of Iowa awarded the nation's first doctorate degrees in mass communications in 1948? 

Established in 1924, The University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication has long been recognized as a leader in journalism education. The School has produced thousands of distinguished graduates, and some have gone on to win Pulitzer Prizes, Peabody Awards, and Emmy Awards. Many UI alumni have been inducted into the School's Hall of Fame.

Perhaps the UI’s most famous journalism graduate is George Gallup (PhD 1928), who founded the Gallup Poll in 1935 and conducted the nation’s first newspaper readership surveys while teaching at the UI in the 1920s.

Children's author Mildred Wirt Benson (MA 1927) wrote several books in the Nancy Drew mystery series under the name "Carolyn Keene." Benson was the guest of honor among 500 attendees at the UI's Nancy Drew Conference in 1993.

Historical Timeline

  • 1901: The Daily Iowan is first published at The University of Iowa following the merger of two existing campus newspapers.
  • 1915: In the early years, journalism instruction at the UI was sporadic, with a few courses offered through the English Department. Classes were taught in Liberal Arts Hall, now called Schaeffer Hall.
  • 1918: Millicent Whitcomb is editor in chief of The Daily Iowan, the first woman editor of an American college daily newspaper.
  • 1920: A journalism BA first becomes available to UI students.
  • 1915-23: UI officials sought several times to start a formal journalism program, but their efforts were hampered by a lack of money and space. Also, newspaper publishers and editors throughout Iowa (the people who would be the future employers of many UI journalism graduates) were skeptical that journalism could be taught in the classroom. In their minds, it was a craft that could only be learned by working at a newspaper. But other universities and colleges around the nation were offering full courses of study in journalism. Growing numbers of UI students were enrolling in the few journalism classes that were available. State and university officials began to fear that the UI would fall behind other institutions in prestige, and they were especially concerned about losing students to out-of-state schools. UI officials eventually overcame the objections of Iowa's newspaper editors and publishers by linking classroom instruction with the work students did at The Daily Iowan.
  • 1924: The State Board of Education approves the establishment of a School of Journalism at the UI.   The School is housed in Close Hall. (State officials approved a name change to “School of Journalism and Mass Communication" in 1980.)
  • 1927: The School awards its first master's degree to Mildred (Augustine) Wirt Benson, who would later write 23 of the first 30 Nancy Drew mysteries under the name Carolyn Keene.
  • 1928: George Gallup, a 1923 UI journalism graduate, earns a doctorate in psychology. Gallup conducted the nation's first newspaper readership surveys during his time as a UI journalism professor in the mid-'20s. He founded the Gallup Poll in 1935.
  • 1930: The UI becomes one of the first journalism schools in the nation to offer photography classes.
  • 1933: The School first offers courses in radio. Students work at campus station WSUI.
  • 1940: Fire destroys much of Close Hall. The School is relocated to East Hall, formerly the University Hospital and now Seashore Hall.
  • 1944: Six women students fill all the editorial positions at The Daily Iowan.
  • 1945: The School begins offering research methods courses.
  • 1948: The UI School of Journalism awards the nation’s first doctorate degrees in mass communications to Donald Jackson and Charles Swanson. After World War II, journalism at the UI grew significantly, an expansion that reflected the vision of Wilbur Schramm, director of the School from 1943-47. The faculty doubled in size, and classes in advertising, magazines, public relations, and television were added to the traditional courses in newspaper work and to classes already being offered in photography and radio. Schramm believed that the world, and journalism, would be vastly different after the war. He reaffirmed the importance of a liberal arts education for undergraduates and, recognizing a forthcoming need for research, started the UI's doctoral program in mass communications. (In 1936, Schramm founded the Iowa Writers' Workshop, the nation's first creative writing degree program.)
  • 1953: The School moves into new facilities at the Communications Center.
  • 1969: Journalism students are no longer required to work at The Daily Iowan or WSUI.
  • 1980: State officials approve a name change to “School of Journalism and Mass Communication,” which more accurately reflects the academic activities of the School. At the time, about 40 percent of undergraduates were enrolled in the Mass Communications sequence degree program with the remainder in the News-Editorial sequence.
  • 1984: The Daily Iowan is named the nation’s best college newspaper by the Society of Professional Journalists, Sigma Delta Chi.
  • 1986: The UI is invited to help select the first journalist to travel into space. The School buys its first Macintosh computers.
  • 1993: An estimated 500 people attend the School's Nancy Drew Conference. UI faculty and staff discovered in 1991 that the author of several of the original Nancy Drew books, Carolyn Keene, was actually Mildred Wirt Benson, the first person to earn a master's degree in journalism at the UI. Benson wrote 23 of the first 30 books in the popular mystery series.
  • 1996: The School offers its first course in online journalism.
  • 1997: With the Communications Center scheduled for renovation, the School moves to Seashore Hall. Later, state and UI officials determine that updating the Communications Center will not be cost effective. A new building is approved.
  • 2005: The Philip D. Adler Journalism and Mass Communication Building opens next to the Main Library. The School is re-accredited by the Accrediting Council of Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. In its report, the Council praised the School for having a diverse faculty with an excellent blend of academic and professional experience; a nurturing, open atmosphere between faculty and students; a new building with excellent facilities and equipment; and a new sense of community among the faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, and staff who are now housed in the Adler Building.