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Features Journalism professor discusses experience, gives advice to students

Journalism professor discusses experience, gives advice to students

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Walking into College Hall, students might be greeted by a Journalism professor. This professor will greet the student and joke around with them, either by saying he had black hair when the dinosaurs roamed the earth or how an event from his past was 1000 years ago. That professor is David R. Davies Ph.D, who started teaching at Southern Miss in 1991.

According to Davies’ biography on The University of Southern Mississippi’s website, he worked as a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat and Arkansas Gazette before entering academia. Davies has directed the Southern Miss British Studies Program since 2013 and teaches courses in writing, editing, reporting, social media and media history.

Davies said he first got into journalism when he worked for his highschool newspaper in Malvern, Arkansas. 

“Way back in the 1970s, I had a great journalism teacher — hello, Mrs. Cagle — and I got interested in journalism from that,” Davies said. 

Davies went to the University of Arkansas and studied journalism for his undergrad. Davies said he started out with broadcast journalism, but eventually moved over to print.

“I got the bug in high school, and I was some[one] who really liked reading and liked newspapers,” Davies said. “It was a natural fit for me.”

It was also while in the University of Arkansas that Davies first studied abroad. His study abroad experience in France made him interested in becoming the director of the British Studies Program at Southern Miss.

“I was always interested in study abroad — I had studied abroad once as an undergraduate and a couple of years after I graduated,” Davies said. “Consequently, I had seen how important study abroad was for my life[,] and when the opportunity to work in the British Studies Program, I jumped at it.”

Davies first started in British Studies in 1999 and became the academic director in 2013. He said study abroad has been a really important part of his time at Southern Miss. 

“We have a strong program, and it has been such a delight to be associated with it,” Davies said.

Jessica Bunales is the assistant director with the British Studies Program. Bunales said Davies has worked with the Office of Study Abroad for many years and is dedicated to making study abroad a possibility for all students.

“The only consistency [with the program] is that Dave brings enough energy and enthusiasm to keep everyone engaged and excited for the day’s task,” Bunales said.

Davies said the best part of going abroad is watching students grow from that experience. He said studying abroad makes a student open to a wider range of possibilities, and that is why he works in study abroad.

“Yes, we want you to learn about journalism, art or whatever it might be abroad, but the bottom line is we want to open up new worlds for you so that you can see yourself going different directions and taking on new challenges,” Davies said.

It also leads to many interesting situations that fit right into Davies’s humor. Davies shared a story that occurred when he was in Brighton during one study abroad trip. They were sitting outside and a seagull swept in and stole his sandwich.

“I ordered this little ham sandwich on a baguette — it was probably the best sandwich I had ever tasted in my entire life, it was absolutely a work of art,” Davies said. “I was about to take my second bite when a huge seagull swooped down from above and took the sandwich right out of my hand.”

Davies has also held several administrative positions at Southern Miss, such as the Chair of the Journalism department from 1998 to 2001, the Interim Director of the School of Mass Communication and Journalism from 2004 to 2005 and the Dean and Professor of the Honors College from 2007 to 2014. All of the administrative jobs entailed working with students, which, according to Davies, was the best part of those jobs.

“Working in my administrative positions were just a great opportunity to help students and watch them grow,” Davies said. “There is no better feeling than watching your students go off to success.”

Davies said, because of the Internet, it is so much easier to keep track of former students and to enjoy their success. He made sure to add that Southern Miss students who graduated in the School of Communication end up working in some terrific jobs across the country.

He shared some advice and comments for current students in the School of Communication.

“What I would tell journalism students and Mass Communication students generally to do is master these technological tools the best they can while they are in college,” Davies said. “The wider your range of skills, the better.”

Davies said employers really want people who can do a wide number of things, so the more skills a student has, the better. He encouraged students to get a minor that goes with their major and build a strong portfolio that applies to media and non-media jobs.

“The bottom line is, students need to use the opportunity of college where there are so many possibilities for experience to gain as much as possible,” Davies said. “College is [the] time to cast a net as wide as possible — take courses in all the areas that interest you — so that you can see what appeals to you.”

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