As a student at this outstanding Missouri School of Journalism, if you don’t know who Associate Dean Brian Brooks is now you better brush up on some of your J-School facts because I can guarantee you he has had a hand in your education whether you know him or not.
Brooks has been the associate dean for undergraduate studies and administration here at the J-School since January 2003 but has been an integral part of our school since long before then, serving as chairman of the editorial department from 1999 to 2003 and also news editor and editor of the Columbia Missourian in 1989. He might have even written one of your textbooks. And he knows exactly how we feel – he’s been in our shoes himself, graduating from this school with bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
“The school was great back then, don’t get me wrong, but it is so much better now than it was then. And we had some departments when I was in school that I thought were a little on the weak side, I don’t think we have any weak departments now,” he said.
Around the time of his graduation in 1967 the Vietnam War was taking soldiers straight out of schools, and with the draft board tapping on his shoulder Brooks enrolled to get back in the ROTC, having already completed two years of training during his freshmen and sophomore years. He competed against 400 other men for one of 90 spots available in the program and earned his masters degree during his training after he was re-accepted into the program. He then went to Vietnam as an information officer, and the experience helped him gain journalism experience “from the other side”.
“I got to see it from the other side. My job involved showing a lot of correspondents around our area in Vietnam and so I got to work with guys from all three of the television networks and the New York Times and other newspapers and worked with a lot of famous journalists who were there to cover the war. It gave me a perspective from the other side, from the sources’ side, [on] what it’s like to be a journalist and I think that’s very valuable,” he said.
He came back to the J-School in 1974 this time on the faculty side, with not only experience in newsrooms and in Vietnam but a passion for teaching, which he brought with vigor and promise for a better school.
“I love being a journalist but I also always was interested in helping young people get into the business. I’ve evolved more into the teaching and administrative side. I just like working with young people. I think it’s really important that those of us who’ve done this can help them get their feet wet in the business,” he said.
“I like being around young people, it keeps me young you know?” he added as an afterthought, smiling. “I have great admiration for this generation. They’re smarter than ever, they’re more aware of the world and I think they’re light-years ahead of where we were at age 18, 19, 20.”
This year will be Professor Brook’s last year teaching and being associate dean – he plans on retiring at the end of the spring semester. His legacy, however, will live on in the many positive changes he brought about during his time here. He has helped implement freshmen enrollment (so if you’re currently in the J-School as a freshman, you know who to thank) and helped create the Walter Williams scholar program. Also, enrollment for the school has doubled and at the same time ACT scores have gone up as well, an impressive feat.
“I think we’re getting more students and better students. I think if you can do those at the same time. Of course it’s not me, a lot of other people made that happen, but I like to think I played a role in it,” he said.
As he begins to make preparations to leave the school, Brooks looks forward to his future retirement, planning to continue making textbook revisions as well as write a historical novel about his grandfather’s experiences in World War I, a change from his usual writing. But, he anticipates it will be difficult to leave a school he reveres and has dedicated so much to.
“One of the great things about this school is that the faculty is never satisfied, you know, always trying to figure out how to do things better. As long as that culture stays here in this school, this school will always be a great school. I’ve given my life to this place and I love it, it’s gonna be hard to walk away, but it’s time. It’s time to let somebody else do it,” Brooks said.
Constantly learning and writing, Brooks should serve as an inspiration to student writers around, and he offers a single piece of valuable advice for anyone looking to have a career as successful as the one he has built from the ground up.
“Work hard. There’s no substitute for working hard and displaying your value and your worth. And if you do that you’ll never go wanting for a job,” he said.