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Founding Cronkite School Dean Named Next President of University of the Pacific

November 21, 2019
Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan

Photo by: Jim David/Phoenix Magazine

Christopher Callahan, who led the transformation of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University into one of the nation’s top programs, was announced today as the next president of University of the Pacific, the oldest chartered institution of higher education in California.

Callahan will start July 1, 2020. He joined ASU as the Cronkite School’s founding dean in 2005. Callahan also serves as vice provost of Arizona State’s Downtown Phoenix campus and CEO of Arizona PBS, one of the nation’s largest public television stations with a focus on public service and lifelong learning.

Callahan made his mark as a leader and innovator, bringing energy and passion to the Cronkite School and ASU’s 13,000-student downtown campus. During his time, he led Cronkite efforts that dramatically increased student enrollment, retention, diversity, graduation rates and recruitment of out-of-state students.

His leadership more than tripled the size of the faculty through philanthropy, entrepreneurial partnerships and strategic initiatives, championed a teaching design of immersive experiential learning and community service, and led the creation of new degree programs on the undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D. levels. He forged learning and research partnerships with major corporations and nonprofits nationally, and raised more than $100 million.

“Chris Callahan is a great architect of the future through his design creativity in complex academic settings,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “He has designed and built the nation’s finest journalism school in an era of great social complexity and made significant national contributions through these efforts.”

A signature of the Cronkite School under Callahan’s leadership is the “news teaching hospital” model to educate students using experience-based immersive learning that also serves communities. The Cronkite School’s 15 professional programs dramatically accelerate student learning.

Students might spend one semester producing digital content for Cronkite News – Phoenix and another in Washington, D.C., covering national news for Arizona audiences. Or they might work in the Digital Audiences Lab one semester and take their new audience engagement skills into the Public Relations Lab, where they develop campaigns for clients from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies.

Callahan also helped grow Cronkite through partnerships with some of the biggest names in journalism and communications. The Scripps Howard Foundation, for example, invested $3 million to establish a Howard Center for Investigative Journalism, which opened this fall.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has invested more than $10 million on a series of innovative programs, including Carnegie-Knight News21 and the Knight-Cronkite Local TV News Innovation Initiative.

Other partnerships with the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, The Hearst Foundations, the Ford Foundation, the Dow Jones News Fund, Google and many more helped create new programs, offerings, centers, faculty positions and opportunities for Cronkite students.

PBS NewsHour West launched this fall – a new West Coast feed updated and reported inside the Cronkite School to better serve the West, with Stephanie Sy and Richard Coolidge leading the team. The move creates the only national newscast inside a journalism school, and will create expanded opportunities for students.

Indian Country Today arrived at the Cronkite School this summer, bringing a leading voice for news coverage of Indian Country. The digital media outlet promptly made history, becoming the first tribal media organization to host a presidential candidate.

And Cronkite students simply continue to dominate journalism competitions:

  • The Carnegie-Knight News21 investigative reporting project at the Cronkite School won the 2019 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for “Hate in America.” It was the fourth time a Cronkite School project won the prestigious national RFK award, the most of any university in the country.
  • News21 won the Student Edward R. Murrow Award for Excellence in Digital Reporting for a third consecutive year.
  • News21 has won seven EPPY Awards in eight years from Editor & Publisher magazine.
  • Cronkite finished second in the Hearst Journalism Awards, and finished in the top six in all four award categories. Cronkite has finished in the top 10 in the Hearst awards for 17 consecutive years.
  • Recent Cronkite graduates hold prominent roles at The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, The Guardian, ESPN, and more.
Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan

“Chris has exceeded all expectations as the founding dean of the Walter Cronkite School. He has left a legacy of excellence among students and faculty and a school known for the diversity of its people and ideas,” said ASU Executive Vice President and University Provost Mark Searle.

Before joining ASU, Callahan served in faculty and leadership positions at the University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism. Early in his career, he was a correspondent for The Associated Press in Washington, D.C.

“It has been an honor and privilege to serve the students, faculty, staff, alumni, board members and supporters of the Cronkite School,” Callahan said Thursday. “Cronkite truly has become the journalism school for the New American University.

“The last 15 years have been truly amazing, but I am supremely confident that the next 15 years will be even brighter.”

Callahan will be joined at Pacific by his wife, Jean, a human resources executive. The couple will reside in the President’s Residence on the Stockton Campus.