By Carol Zuegner, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Journalism, Media & Computing
It’s hard to imagine the halls of Hitchcock or the sidewalks of Creighton’s campus without the quick steps of Eileen Wirth, Ph.D., but the longtime chair of the Department of Journalism, Media and Computing is retiring at the end of the academic year.
Wirth has been a member of the department since 1991 and chair of the department since 1997, a time of tremendous upheaval in the journalism landscape and a time of tremendous growth and innovation in the department.
The department has grown from around 40 majors to more than 130 majors. Her leadership helped expand the department with the merger with computer science, as the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication became the Department of Journalism, Media and Computing. She has recruited or hired most of the nine other faculty members in the department. She oversaw the transition from a traditional journalism and broadcast curriculum to a cutting-edge curriculum encompassing journalism, graphic design, video and photography, and computer science. The department’s array of offerings now ranges from the important and foundational traditional journalism classes such as Media Writing, Public Relations Writing, Editing, Ethics, Graphic Design and Photojournalism to Social Media, Interactive Web Design, 3-D printing, computer programming and Backpack Journalism.
Throughout that time, many things haven’t changed. Wirth has taught, mentored, cajoled, advised and recruited hundreds of students. Her alumni job and internship network is legendary. Her students learn a sense of the importance of the First Amendment, the ability to write well, the value of personal relationships and an understanding of the values of Jesuit education.
Wirth’s skill and leadership were celebrated by the national Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, as she was named one of the finalists for the Administrator of the Year award in 2015. That award goes on a shelf crowded with others from the college, the University, other universities and organizations.
Her dedication to Jesuit values and mission has inspired faculty and students. Her commitment to community, whether the department, the college, Creighton or Omaha, translates into countless hours of behind-the-scenes work to make each place better.
No one expects Wirth to slow down after retirement. She plans to write yet another book, this one for the History Press. She plans to do volunteer work with refugees, the Omaha Public Library Foundation, the Omaha Press Club Foundation and St. John’s. She also plans to do freelance writing and workshops on writing and PR. She’ll also stay involved with JMC alumni.
It is hard to imagine the newly renovated halls of Hitchcock without Wirth or to imagine a department meeting or student celebration without a pan of her brownies. She promises she’ll still bake brownies for JMC!