Broadcasting Professor Sam Swan Ends 37 Years at UT with ‘Last Lecture’ | Administration

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Sam Swan (center), award-winning professor in the School of Journalism and Electronic Media and Director of Global Programs and Outreach for the College of Communication and Information, retires after 37 years at UT.




Wednesday night, Sam the Swan, a professor who is about to retire at the School of Electronic Media Journalism, reflected on his accomplishments throughout his long career and delivered a farewell word to the community of alumni, students and the UT staff at a “final conference” hosted by the Honor Society Mortar Board.

Professor Swan’s career in audiovisual journalism, management, international media education and training has spanned over 50 years. He began this career while attending college at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. He was a radio journalist and KFVS presenter.

After graduating, he accepted an offer to work in Sri Lanka for six months. He lived with host families to learn about the culture of the country while working with the Farm Broadcasting Service. It started Swan’s lifelong passion for international work.

“I absolutely fell in love with Sri Lanka and the whole international experience. The most important thing I did was meet families and engage in this form of cross-cultural communication and I started to realize how important it is for ordinary people to be able to come together and communicate with the others, ”Swan said.

Swan went on to earn his Masters in Communication from Central Missouri State University and earned a PhD. in communications at the University of Missouri. He also worked as a radio and television specialist for the university and participated in numerous radio and television broadcasts.

After his time in Missouri, Swan moved to the University of Minnesota, where he was appointed head of electronic media and headed a faculty of broadcasters in the production of radio and television programs.

He then became head of the radio and television department at Southern Illinois University where he obtained approval for a new master’s degree in telecommunications.

On January 1, 1985, Dr. Swan came to the University of Tennessee to head the broadcasting department. While at UT, he served as Acting Director of the School of Journalism and Electronic Media and Director of Global Programs and Outreach for the College of Communication and Information.

Swan’s main goal at the university was to reconstruct the broadcast programs and make them as practical and professional as possible for students pursuing a degree in the College of Communication and Information.

One of his changes to the program required students to gain their first broadcasting experience at WUTK-FM. He then created a television program, UT Today, which has been broadcast for twenty-five years. He also helped create five study abroad programs and took students on trips around the world, from New York to Prague and Australia.

“At the end of the 80s, I started taking students to New York on a semi-regular basis because I wanted them to see that they can do whatever they want to do anywhere,” said Swan said. “You are not limited to Knoxville, Tennessee. If you want to work in the media capital of the world, you can.

Swan has also led several workshops for visiting groups of international broadcast directors in Washington DC and the University of Tennessee. He received two Fulbright Specialist appointments from the University of Zagreb in Croatia and Ethiopia where he taught at Hawassa University and Haramaya University.

Swan was recognized by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication with the 2009 Ed Bliss Award and the 2021 Distinguished Service Award by Tennessee for his contributions to the broadcasting industry in the state.

Swan is the author of two books, over 150 articles on broadcast management and journalism, a chapter of the NAB Engineering Handbook on Management, and is currently writing a book on international media training.

Regardless of these many accomplishments, Swan said his journey is not over.

“It has been a wonderful career. I’m not saying it’s over, ”Swan said. “I think I have the best job in the world. I have one foot in the classroom and one foot in the newsroom. The best part for me looking back over the 37 years has been the students. Giving them the confidence to pursue their dreams and then seeing them do it is the best part. “

Swan’s good friend and communications entrepreneur Larry patrick spoke at the conference, encouraging his friend to start a new chapter in his life.

“You’ve been around the world, but now you’re starting a new journey,” Patrick said. “Now may be the time to look at your compass and find your true north. “

For his next chapter, Swan plans to finish writing his book and return to the air with his next podcast series, “Now We Have a Story.”


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