By Blake Jerome ’15 | The LUTE Times | April 15, 2014
For some, the American dream is enough. They go to high school and maybe even college. They find a job that can support their lifestyle, get married and start a family. For some, this is enough, but there are others who require more out of life. Some feel that it is their duty to pass their knowledge to the next generation through academic teaching. And then there are those who take it one step further and get to know their students on a personal level, through advising.
Clifford Rowe, a native of Forest Grove, Ore. and a professor of communication at Pacific Lutheran University, has done just that. After serving as a professional journalist all over the United States for more than 20 years, Rowe started teaching at PLU in 1975. PLU had approached Rowe and asked him to design a journalism program for the communication department and then later asked if he would teach classes as well. “From the very first day I taught at PLU, I thought, ‘This is good,’ and I’ve never changed my mind on that,” Rowe said.
Rowe became involved with advising when almost every student from one of his “Journalism Ethics” courses were writers or editors at The Mooring Mast — PLU’s student newspaper.
“I didn’t know anything about advising at the time,” Rowe said, “but I felt like I had a unique opportunity to reinforce the lessons that were being taught to these students in my class, and I didn’t want to pass that up.”
Rowe said he’s never really come to grips with the technology side of journalism and that’s one of the many reasons that he loves working with college-aged students.
“I respect and admire my journalism students,” Rowe said. “They keep me fresh and on my toes. They do as much for me as I do for them.” He said he believes there is still a lot of great journalism happening today, but that it’s all being produced by a shrinking number of people. Rowe said that students have got to learn how to be versatile if they want to be a journalist in today’s world.
“Don’t be like me,” Rowe said. “In my day you could just be a writer or a broadcaster or a photographer, but these days you’ve got to be able to do it all.”
Student journalists at The Mooring Mast said they appreciate the advice that Rowe offers.
“Cliff has so much experience in news media,” senior copy editor Kelsey Mejlaender said. “His in-depth knowledge really comes in handy when we’re producing the paper.”
Rowe, or “Cliff” as he’s known among his students, does an extensive critique of every issue of the paper. In what usually equates to three to four pages of notes, Rowe reviews every paragraph line by line explaining what he likes about each article and what could use work. This allows students to improve at a rapid pace from week to week.
“That he cares enough to go through the paper every week and write out such detailed notes means a lot to us,” Mejlaender said.
Rowe’s ultimate goal is to prepare his students to face the evolving world of journalism after college. He said PLU sets its students up for success, even though it is much more difficult to find a good job in today’s world.
“I think the general public is beginning to realize what they’re losing with the decline in newspapers,” Rowe said. “That doesn’t mean I think newspapers will come roaring back, but journalism as a profession, that will never die. People need news. Being versatile is the key to success.”
Junior Ashley Gill said she couldn’t imagine what The Mooring Mast would look like without his expertise and professional input. “His kind spirit really has a positive effect on the entire staff at The Mast.”
The 76-year-old shows no signs of slowing down yet. Rowe officially retired more than 10 years ago with the intention of only teaching if something really needed to be taught and only if there was a shortage of faculty. He was back in the classroom the very next year. “I’m getting older, no doubt about it, but being a part of an ever changing profession and working with a young group of motivated students, it’s impossible to ever truly feel old.”
College is fast paced on purpose. It prepares you for the rigors of the real world — a world where students aren’t protected in a classroom environment. Out there, a mistake could mean diminishing your reputation or even losing your job. There is a lot to be learned in the classroom, no arguing that, but the knowledge gained from a dedicated adviser like Clifford Rowe is invaluable. It’s been said that Cliff has been around the world twice and spoke to everyone once, if this is true then he is exactly the kind of source every journalist should have.