Back to News

Professor June Nicholson to retire after 35-year career at VCU

May 8, 2019

Posted in: News

Professor June Nicholson will retire this summer after a 35-year career at VCU and the Richard T. Robertson School of Media Culture. A reception for students, faculty and staff was held on May 6 in the VCU University Student Commons to honor Nicholson’s many contributions and achievements at VCU.


“It is rare to come across a colleague at any institution who has so strongly demonstrated excellence in teaching, scholarship and service to the academy and to journalism,” said Robertson School Director Dr. Hong Cheng. “I know many of you will join me in congratulating Professor Nicholson for more than three decades of exemplary achievement and dedication to our School, College, University, the profession of journalism and higher education in our field.”

In journalism, Nicholson has earned a reputation as a national leader on diversity issues, especially for women and people of color in the journalism profession in the United States and around the world. She developed courses and programs for students that have enhanced cross-cultural and multicultural understanding. She has educated students and professionals in “best practices” of journalism, with an emphasis on the expertise needed to produce high-quality long-form, in-depth projects and multimedia coverage of major issues across specializations.

Nicholson taught two of the Robertson School’s capstone courses in the digital media sequence: Advanced Reporting and Specialized/Project Reporting. She has spearheaded over the years many of the global education initiatives in our School: She developed the graduate course in International Journalism. She developed and taught the first international media course in the School—International Media Coverage: The Middle East, often as an honors course and cross-listed with the School of World Studies. This course provided students with an opportunity to learn about the Middle East and how media influence cross-cultural perspectives.

Along with a former broadcast colleague, Nicholson developed the first course in the School in 2007 that allowed journalism students to do two-week reporting in Shanghai, China. A half-hour show for Richmond PBS was one result of that course. These were among the first students in the U.S. to do reporting from that nation. The study tour was undertaken in partnership with Fudan University, one of VCU’s key partners.

As a scholar, Nicholson has provided intellectual and creative leadership. She conceptualized and developed a book project that resulted in the publication of The Edge of Change: Women in the 21st Century Press (2009). She was lead editor for this groundbreaking book published by the University of Illinois Press. That volume was the first in two decades to examine the role, status and challenges for women in contemporary journalism. The book was the focus of a follow-up conference at The Poynter Institute for Media Studies.

“I have truly enjoyed every day in my work at VCU, which has become a model urban research university for institutions in this country and abroad. I hope to remain engaged with the University for many years to come,” Nicholson said. “My sincere thanks to everyone—the University administration, faculty, staff, alumni and especially my students—for making these years so extraordinarily rewarding. I hope my small contributions have in some way helped make VCU what it is today—an inspiring place to learn, discover, thrive and as a faculty member execute a noble purpose in educating the next generation of leaders and thinkers.”

Nicholson joined the School faculty at VCU in 1984, after more than a dozen years as an award-winning journalist in North Carolina, for the Raleigh News and Observer, and as a statehouse reporter in Virginia. Two years after joining the faculty, she became assistant director of the School, taking on the first of a number of administrative roles. She has served as interim director, associate director over a number of years, associate director of graduate studies and presently director of graduate studies.

For almost 25 years, Nicholson directed the School’s intensive two-week residential Urban Journalism Workshop for high school journalists of color (the eligibility criteria was changed to race-neutral), which was the School’s most extensive outreach program for young minorities. This program was sponsored by the national Dow Jones News Fund (formerly the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund) and the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Nicholson’s service to VCU has been extensive over many years. She served as Faculty Senate president for two recent years (2013-2015). During that period, she chaired meetings of the Senate and Senate Leadership, as well as the Executive Committee of the Senate. She worked to enhance the Senate strategically as the voice of faculty of the University, focusing on issues of shared governance as well as diversity and inclusion, improved lines of communication between faculty and the VCU central administration, effective representation of faculty concerns to the VCU administration, and internal functioning and updating of the Senate’s processes and policies.

Nicholson has been recognized with a number of prestigious awards during her career. In 2007, she was named recipient of the College of Humanities and Sciences Distinguished Service Award for service to VCU, the College and journalism profession.

She was named recipient of two national AEJMC honors, including in 2014, the AEJMC Commission on the Status of Women’s Outstanding Woman Educator in Journalism and Mass Communication Award. The honor goes to a female AEJMC educator “who has represented women well through excellence and high standards” and has made substantial contributions to journalism and mass communication education.” In another signature honor from AEJMC, Nicholson was named in 2008 recipient of the Robert Knight Multicultural Award by the Scholastic Journalism Division for her work to promote diversity in American newsrooms.

In 2016, Nicholson was inducted into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame, which “recognizes communication professionals with exceptional careers in advertising, journalism, public relations, new media and other media fields.”