Campus News

School of Journalism and Telecommunications Welcomes New Director

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 5, 2016)  The University of Kentucky College of Communication and Information welcomes Lars Willnat as the new director of the School of Journalism and Telecommunications.

Willnat was appointed for this position during the Spring 2015 semester. Willnat arrived on UK’s campus in January to begin his new role.

“I was thrilled,” Willnat said. “It’s a nice change for me. I’ve been a professor for 20 years. I want to do something different, create something, work with a program that already exists and build on that.”

Willnat will take a break from teaching for one semester to allow time for him to settle into his new role. He is looking forward to teaching in the fall semester and plans to instruct a course on media and the upcoming presidential election.

His vision for the school includes incorporating additional emerging media courses to the curriculum, updating technology resources for students and creating a professional master’s program within the school.

“The big thing that I would really like to accomplish within the next one or two years would be to start a professional master’s program here, and I think there’s big potential for that, focusing on new and emerging media,” Willnat said.

Willnat also hopes these changes will bring national recognition to the School of Journalism and Telecommunications at UK.

“I would like to make it one of the leading schools in the country,” Willnat said. “I would like to see it as one of the top schools, really.”

Preceding Willnat was Beth Barnes, the former director of the School of Journalism and Telecommunications. Barnes served the school's limit of three four-year terms and went on to teach a UK education abroad course in London, England, this semester, followed by a sabbatical doing research in Zambia during the fall 2016 semester.

Willnat, too, has seen much of the world. Before coming to UK, he was a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong; George Washington University in Washington, D.C.; and most recently at Indiana University.

Willnat then spent a sabbatical semester last fall conducting research in Hong Kong, focusing on journalism, politics and social media.

Willnat is settling in and enjoying his time on campus.

“The campus here is beautiful,” Willnat said. “I was really excited because I like campus life, and Kentucky has a nice one. To me that was one big draw when I came here.”

Willnat’s wife, Annette, is now also a part of the Wildcat family. She is teaching "Strategic Public Relations, ISC 341," and "Global Strategies, ISC 497," this semester.

Along with David H. Weaver, Willnat has conducted research in digital journalism. Together they will publish a book this year titled "The American Journalist in the Digital Age." The book is based on a representative survey of more than 1,000 U.S. journalists that focuses on how journalists think about their roles in society and their profession overall. 

Willnat is the author of more than 50 journal articles and book chapters and the co-editor of four books. He has written more than 80 conference papers and worked as a consultant for American industries and government agencies. Willnat is on the editorial boards of four academic journals, has lectured and conducted research in more than 30 countries, has been a Fulbright scholar and guest professor at leading universities across the world.

“We are very pleased to have Dr. Willnat join our journalism and media school,” Dean O’Hair said. “Lars is a recognized scholar in the field of journalism and brings a great deal of international experience to the role. Additionally, we are excited to welcome Annette Willnat to the Integrated Strategic Communication faculty. Both Willnats come to UK with a wealth of teaching experience.”

Willnat earned his bachelor's degree in media research and political science from the Free University of Berlin and his master's and doctoral degrees in mass communication from Indiana University.

MEDIA CONTACT: Blair Hoover, 859-257-6398;