New Mass Comm Director Sees Bright Future


Fred Pearce joined USF after nearly two decades at the University of Alaska.


By Barbara Melendez

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 21, 2010) – New technology, as well as  the changing media landscape and marketplace are driving exciting changes coming to the University of South Florida’s School of Mass Communications.  Leading the charge is the school’s new director, Fred Pearce.    

After 19 years at the University of Alaska at Anchorage, he traded the largest state’s rugged clime for Tampa Bay’s tropical paradise this summer and quickly warmed to his new role.   With one semester under his belt, he is impressed with the faculty and the students, and envisions a multitude of new possibilities ahead for a school that specializes in advertising, journalism, public relations or telecommunications.

“I see a university poised for greatness and with the school of mass communications likewise on the cusp of doing great things and I’m excited about being part of this and part of the leadership,” Pearce said.

His first weeks on campus were consumed with meetings plus observing, learning and examining the processes, forming opinions.  Past accomplishments, present conditions and fresh ideas are informing Pearce’s objectives for one, two, five, 10 and even 20 years down the road.  

“My job is looking at the horizon and determining: here’s how we’re trending,” Pearce said.  “It’s like moving into a new home, you notice things, prioritize and then attack the most important things first.”

Right off the bat, Pearce noticed the need for courses in graphic and web design.  He would like to see more attention and coverage paid to women’s sports as well as volleyball, gymnastics and other areas where student athletes excel.  He is also looking to strengthen the graduate program and add diversity to the teaching staff.

In the journalism program, Pearce is particularly interested in taking advantage of the latest generation of cell phone features and sees where certain courses can serve the university as a whole as well as the program itself and beyond.

“There’s no longer a need to carry around all this gear anymore,” Pearce said.  “News can be more fresh and informative than ever before thanks to cameras and video recording capabilities.  We’re entertaining the idea of focusing journalism efforts on a news service covering USF and Temple Terrace, a web-based news service – drawing from the Oracle and other sources as well.  We have as many as 120 students available to develop stories.  They can be a tremendous resource for the university and the community.  If our goal is to educate professionals, then they need that level of experience.”

Is this investment in journalism worth the effort in light of all the shifts and changes in the field?  Pearce thinks so.

“More people are spending more disposable income on smaller slices of the media market,” he said.  “There will always be a need for content creation and distribution. We need to prepare students for those opportunities at the core of the skills sets we teach, most important among them clear thinking and critical analysis in peaking and writing.  We have great strength in those areas and we have a commitment to continue serving those principles.

 “Lots of things are working so we’ll be fine-tuning here and there. My goal is to make sure all students graduate with all the tools they need in their tool belts. Silos are outdated.  More skills allow more entry points.  All students need to know about the influence of public relations and about video and advertising.  Our program should represent the highest ideals of all those disciplines.  Thanks to a faculty that believes the same thing, USF is known for providing highly motivated and skilled people and will continue to be.”

As Pearce looks ahead we can expect the next five years as a time for making the bulk of his realignments.  He would also like to bring students into contact with Mass Communications’ alumni – the school boasts 6000 graduates – and produce an alumni newsletter.

“Putting current students together with alumni will to enhance their education and provide them with a much needed network when it comes time to find jobs,” he said.

 “I’m energized by optimism and enthusiasm.  I’m asking how can we get better and become recognized as one of the best programs in the country.  Most programs have a 90 year head start. We’ll know we’re successful when we look at the whole profile.  We have a good base with the faculty.  With some fine-tuning and being able to recruit aggressively, I know we’ll get there.”

Pearce’s determination is supported by an important quality. 

“I don’t believe anyone will outwork me.”

Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.