JMC plans search for new director to succeed Jeff Fruit

Olivia Arnette

The School of Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC) will soon launch a national search for a new director, as current director Jeff Fruit will be stepping down after this coming school year.

Fruit began working for Kent State in 1998 as the senior manager in student media. In 2002, he became JMC interim director, and the position became permanent a year later.

Two of Fruit’s best accomplishments were managing the move from Taylor Hall to Franklin Hall and creating a fully online public relations master’s degree, said Stanley Wearden, dean of the College of Communication and Information.

“The move required a combination of fundraising talent, vision of how the new facility should be configured and management skill in handling the myriad logistical details,” Wearden responded in an email. “No one could have done a better job of this than Jeff did. The PR master’s has dramatically enhanced Kent State JMC as a prestigious national brand.”

Wearden said Fruit has helped quadruple enrollment at the graduate level because of the new public relations and scholastic media master’s programs. The undergraduate enrollment has remained steady, but because Fruit made JMC requirements more demanding, the school now has a “higher caliber of student.”

“To me it starts with the people,” Fruit said. “It’s recruiting students who are a good fit for our program, and it’s recruiting faculty and staff who can help them get where they want to go.”

Fruit said one of the most challenging parts of the job is staying ahead of the market trends because technology and the way people receive news are always changing.

“I think one of the difficulties for any program like ours is keeping abreast and staying ahead of what students need,” Fruit said. “You know, if we’re looking at this year’s incoming class, who are going to come out in the market place in 2016, what are they going to need to survive and succeed and thrive in that kind of marketplace? That’s really hard to tell.”

Wearden said Fruit has two standout strengths as a director.

“First, Jeff has tremendous vision,” Wearden said. “He has a remarkable ability to understand and anticipate the shifting media landscape. Second, he has done a great job in strengthening relationships with the professional community, alumni and donors.”

As of now, Fruit and JMC have not set his final date. He said he hoped by next summer the search committee will have found a new director.

Wearden said JMC will create a search committee and begin the search by the end of this summer.

Fruit said he plans to remain a faculty member but isn’t yet sure what he would be doing. He said he would like to teach a large lecture class again, or maybe take another administrative position.

Contact Olivia Arnette, the College of Communication and Information reporter, at [email protected].