October 21, 2016 | 3 p.m.
By Monique Kleinhuizen ’08, G’16, new media strategist
Dave Kansas was recently named director of Bethel University’s Johnson Center for Journalism and Communication. Kansas brings 25 years of experience in local and national media, and hopes to expand Bethel’s reputation and student opportunities within the growing journalism and media programs. As executive vice president and chief operating officer for American Public Media and Minnesota Public Radio, Kansas oversees all aspects of content, programming, operations, technology, and budgeting, says Barrett Fisher, dean of arts and humanities for the College of Arts & Sciences at Bethel.
“Despite the demands of [his current] position…he wants to pursue this opportunity to connect his faith more explicitly to his calling,” says Fisher. “I am excited about Dave’s leadership and the potential for building on the significant legacy that Phyllis [Alsdurf] left as the first director. The vision of the Johnson Center is ‘to produce culture-shaping Christians in the field of print and electronic journalism who earn the respect of their colleagues because of the excellence of their work.’ I look forward to Dave’s assistance in enabling Bethel faculty and students to pursue this vision.”
The Johnson Center—funded by Gene and Kathy Johnson, owners of the Press Publications newspaper group—was established in 2008 and supports Bethel’s journalism curriculum, travel and equipment, and high-quality guest speakers from across the nation and around the world. Kansas will dedicate 10 hours per week—August through June—to the Center in addition to his role at American Public Media. He will act as a liaison between students, the English and communication studies faculty, the Johnson Center Advisory Board, and local media industry.
Q&A with Dave Kansas
How did you first get connected to the Johnson Center?
I grew up in the Twin Cities, and many of my friends attended Bethel. One of my oldest friends, Tom Tollefson, played football for Bethel, and I played football for Macalester. So, I met Bethel friends on the gridiron! I also am friends with Dan Ritchie, a professor in the English department. His wife, Judy, was a pastor at my childhood church, Hope Presbyterian. Also, I’ve been on the Johnson Center board for the past four years.
What excites you most about the field of journalism right now, and how do you see Christ-centered journalists filling a need in the industry?
There is so much happening in journalism today! Many people, unfortunately, lament the challenges facing newspapers, which are real. But beyond newspapers, there’s more happening than ever before. Digital start-ups, non-profit investigative reporting organizations, and other news and information operations are growing rapidly. There are a lot of opportunities for journalists. Faithful journalists have a special and deep interest in seeking truth. I feel in the current climate—where people have a complex relationship with facts—that seeking of truth is more important than ever.
Why this role, and why now?
I have spent a lot of time in academia. I’ve taught at Columbia Journalism School and lectured at West Point, Arizona State, City University of New York, Baruch, New York University, and elsewhere. I really enjoy being around students and motivating them to learn and achieve. I’ve been looking for an opportunity to work with students for some time. Working at the Johnson Center provides me an excellent perch to work with students and faculty, figuring out ways to motivate young people to pursue a career in journalism. I’ve wanted to be in journalism ever since I was a teenager, and this gives me an opportunity to share that passion with new generations of aspiring journalists.
What’s your vision for expanding the reach and reputation of Bethel and the Johnson Center?
This comes in a few parts. On campus, I want to work with the journalism and communications faculty to figure out the best ways to use all of Bethel’s resources to equip aspiring journalists with the tools and experiences that will make them successful. We also want to bring expertise to campus that will illuminate and energize aspiring journalists. That will come in the form of external speakers, training workshops, and other programs that will benefit students.
I also want to build the reputation of Bethel and the Johnson Center by making the Johnson Center more visible in various external venues, such as journalism trade groups. And, I want to build on the work that has enabled aspiring journalists at Bethel to get good internships and good studying opportunities at places like The Kings College in New York. My friend and former Wall Street Journal colleague, Paul Glader, runs The Kings College journalism program, so I’m eager to see what more we can do together. I’m just getting started, so I’m looking forward to working with students, faculty, and the Johnson Center board of advisors to come up with additional ideas. There is enormous potential, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to work at the Johnson Center and be part of the Bethel community.