June O Nicholson
Professor, Journalism and Director of Graduate Studies
B.A., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
M.A., American University
June Nicholson, a professor of journalism and director of graduate studies in Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture, has gained a national reputation in journalism and journalism/communications education in a career that has focused on educating students and professionals in depth news coverage of major issues across the journalism specializations.
Her achievements also are in diversity and inclusion, especially for women and people of color in journalism in the United States and around the globe, and in academic leadership and administration.
Professor Nicholson joined the VCU faculty after working more than a dozen years as a journalist in North Carolina and Virginia. After graduating with a degree in journalism from UNC-Chapel Hill, she worked for four years as a general assignment and city hall reporter for the Raleigh (N.C.) News and Observer. She spent a decade as a statehouse reporter in Richmond, Va., as Capitol bureau chief for the Alexandria Gazette, founder of the Virginia News Service and as a reporter for a national wire service.
Two years after joining the School’s faculty, Professor Nicholson became assistant director of the program, taking on the first of a number of administrative roles, including acting director, associate director over a number of years and graduate director for almost a decade.
In those roles, she has provided extensive leadership to the School, helped build and enhance international programs and helped create and develop the School’s two professional Master of Science programs in Mass Communications: one a two-year degree concentration in Multimedia Journalism and the other a one-year concentration in Strategic Public Relations. These programs are designed to fast-track students into the competitive fields of journalism and PR and to educate more experienced professionals in those disciplinary areas.
As graduate director, she manages recruitment and advising for these programs, chairs the Graduate Studies Committee, is liaison to the College of Humanities and Sciences and VCU Graduate School and also provides support for the innovative interdisciplinary doctoral program at VCU in Media Art and Text (MATX).
She has been a leader in transforming the School’s journalism curriculum and program, in recent years as seismic change engulfed and dramatically altered the media landscape. She led development of the School’s diversity plan and honors/scholars program.
At the undergraduate level, Professor Nicholson teaches two capstones: Advanced Reporting, which focuses on coverage of government, the criminal justice system and the judiciary, and Specialized/Project Reporting that focuses on coverage of news specializations such as the environment, science, health, urban affairs and business. She taught for years the introductory courses writing/reporting course in journalism and was coordinator of faculty and adjuncts who taught that course.
Professor Nicholson developed and has taught since its inception the School’s graduate International Journalism course in the Multimedia Journalism master’s program. She created and taught for years an innovative and interdisciplinary undergraduate course in International Media Coverage: The Middle East. The course provided students with an opportunity to learn about the Middle East and how media influence cross-cultural perspectives. In many semesters, this course was offered as part of the VCU Honors Program and drew students from across majors at the University.
Students met each week in small groups in facilitated real-time discussions with students in the Middle East and USA to examine pressing international issues and developments, communicating with webcam and online technology. They partnered with students in other nations to produce news stories, essays and multimedia content focused on contemporary news events.
Professor Nicholson also helped develop and has co-taught the School’s China Study Abroad courses that has allowed graduate and undergraduate students to travel to China to study the practice of journalism and media. She has helped spearhead other international opportunities for students.
For more than two decades, Professor Nicholson directed the School’s summer intensive two-week residential Urban Journalism Workshop for high school journalists, sponsored by the national Dow Jones News Fund and the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Working under the supervision of professional journalists and VCU staff, students produced a newspaper that addressed major issues of importance to Richmond and the broader community. A number of graduates have gone on to careers in journalism, media and the academy.
Professor Nicholson has been a leader in the national Society of Professional Journalists for many years. She developed and/or has been a participant in more than 40 professional development seminars for national SPJ alone, an organization of more than 8,000 professionals, academics and students. She chaired two of the national society’s committees: Journalism Education (seven years), and International Journalism.
She co-developed the diversity module for the national society. The module, part of the SPJ newsroom training program, is designed to teach professional journalists how to incorporate diversity into their coverage and thus expand public understanding of cultural and demographic groups and communities. She is former president and vice president of the Virginia Professional SPJ chapter.
Professor Nicholson has conducted workshops and seminars also for the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, an association of academics, professionals and students with more than 3,600 members in the USA and abroad. Its mission is to promote the highest standards in journalism/mass communications education and in the professions, and to ensure freedom in communication and an informed citizenry.
Professor Nicholson has given workshops to a number of other academic and professional groups, has written for professional publications about the teaching of journalism, diversity and news convergence and written refereed or juried book chapters.
She conceptualized and was lead editor of a book The Edge of Change: Women in the 21st Century Press, published in 2009 by the University of Illinois Press. That volume was the first in more than two decades to broadly examine the role, status and challenges for women in contemporary journalism. Some three dozen top women executives, leaders, columnists and international correspondents, and a world-renowned anthropologist, contributed chapters. The book elevated the discussion of the role of women and people of color in newsrooms and was the focus of a conference at the Poynter Institute for Media Studies that drew women leaders, editors and academics from across the nation.
Professor Nicholson has worked over the years in a number of capacities to advance faculty governance at VCU and the strategic mission of the University. She was president of the University Faculty Senate from 2013-15 and VCU faculty representative to the Board of Visitors 2015-2017. She is former president of the Humanities and Sciences Faculty Council.
She has served as a member of several search committees for top administrators at VCU, including the provost, senior vice provost for academic affairs, vice provost for faculty affairs, dean of Humanities and Sciences and others. She is a member of the VCU Budget Advisory Committee, the President’s Advisory Group on Diversity and Inclusion and the Advisory Council for iCubed, a recent initiative of the provost’s office to hire in clusters as part of VCU’s effort to recruit and retain faculty of color.
She has served on countless other University and College committees, task forces and advisory groups. She has been a member of several VCU committees in recent years that have helped shape the University’s strategic plan and is a member presently of the University Steering Committee that is developing VCU’s strategic plan through 2025.
She served in recent years on the VCU Task Force on Promotion and Tenure, which revised the promotion and tenure procedures and policies at the University. She is a former member of the VCU University Promotion and Tenure Policy Advisory Committee.
She chaired the Promotion and Tenure Committee of the College of Humanities and Sciences at VCU. That committee votes on tenure and promotion for candidates from the 19 schools (including the School of Media and Culture) and departments that are part of the College.
In the Robertson School, Professor Nicholson has chaired numerous third-year and tenure reviews for School faculty, mentored junior faculty through this process, and chaired several revisions of the School’s promotion and tenure document. She has served as chair or a member of numerous other committees.
Professor Nicholson was the recipient of the AEJMC 2014 Outstanding Woman in Journalism and Mass Communication Education Award, selected by the organization’s Commission on the Status of Women. She was named 2008 recipient of the AEJMC national Robert Knight Multicultural Award given by the Scholastic Journalism Division, which recognized her work to improve diversity in America’s newsrooms.
She is the 2007 recipient of the College of Humanities and Science’s Distinguished Service Award for service to the profession and to the University. In 2016, Professor Nicholson was one of seven inductees into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame. This recognition honors individuals for distinguished careers in journalism and communications. In addition to an undergraduate degree in journalism from UNC-Chapel Hill, Professor Nicholson holds a master’s degree in public affairs journalism from American University in Washington, D.C.