Take the helm

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William Winter is the interim dean of the University of Nevada, Reno’s Donald W. Reynolds School of Journalism. He has been a reporter, an editor, an educator at the university level, and other journalismy things. He started his tenure last month, taking the spot vacated by Jerry Ceppos, who took the deanship at the communication school at Louisiana State University.

Do you go by William or Bill?

I go by Bill. The joke goes, “My friends call me Bill, but around here, they call me Dr. Winter.”

How did you come to be dean of the J-school?

When Jerry [Ceppos] announced he was leaving, there was a need for a person to take the job while a search was underway. As you probably know, those searches take from six months to a year. As a vice president for the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation in Las Vegas, and then as a journalism consultant for the foundation, I’d been coming to UNR regularly since 2003 so I knew a lot of the faculty here—most of the faculty, people in the provost office, President [Milton] Glick, so given that familiarity with the Reynolds school, and given the fact that I have a doctorate, blah, blah, blah, President [Marc] Johnson asked me if I would take on this role. And I was delighted to do so.

And is your hat in the ring for the—


So you are truly interim.

That’s true. I am temporary.

So what do you hope to accomplish during your, probably up to a year, doing this job?

There are a couple of things that really have to be accomplished in the six months, probably, that I’ll be here. The first issue is where the Reynolds building is being renovated with an $8 million grant from the Reynolds Foundation. They’re requiring us to come up with a $2 million match to maintain the building and its technology. We still have $300,000 to go on that, and so I’m going to be spending—and Kristin Burgarello, our Reynolds School director of development—this fall, a tremendous amount of time on that match. The second major thing is the building project itself. There are lots of issues there. I’m sure you’ve been through that, with technology and change orders and blah, blah, blah, so that’s taking a lot of time. We’re looking now at video technology that we’re using in the building. There are choices there, final choices to be made. I think the third thing is to work with the wonderful faculty and staff here to make sure that we’re moving ahead with constant improvement in the curriculum and that our students have access to the best education possible. That’s why we’re here.

Do you feel that the Legislature’s kind of hysteria regarding the UCCSN budget created a brain drain at the university? Did teachers leave because they felt like their jobs weren’t going to be there? Ungrounded fears?

I’d like to answer that, but I’m really not qualified to because I wasn’t here during the legislative session. I started at the Reynolds school July 1. The budget had already been decided. There has not been a brain drain from the Reynolds School, I can tell you that. And the rest of the campus, I just am not qualified to answer that.

Fair enough.

I’m not trying to dodge your question. Obviously, a newcomer like me, as I go around the campus, and I meet people, you certainly understand that the legislative process created a lot of uncertainty for the campus, for individuals on the campus. Many people I’ve run into here, whether other deans or faculty members, have good friends who have left the campus, and I think inevitably the sorts of things put in place by the Legislature do lead really good people to leave because many of them have families and mortgages and they can’t afford to suddenly be out of a job at some point.