Journalism and Media Studies welcomes new director with background in sitcom writing, academic leadership

Temple Northup is the new Director of the School of Journalism and Media Studies.

Photo courtesy of the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Temple Northup is the new Director of the School of Journalism and Media Studies.

by Johann Derek Oribello, Senior Staff Writer

San Diego State is welcoming a new director of the School of Journalism and Media Studies.

Temple Northup, current Director of the University of Houston’s Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, will lead the JMS department beginning in the fall 2020 semester.

Northup, who has five years of leadership experience at the University of Houston, said he was drawn to the level of engagement and enthusiasm of the program from the students during a campus visit.

“When I visited, I had the opportunity to meet with a small group of students,” Northup said. “They were very open about the school—those things they love, and even a few things that can be frustrating. What was clear is that they were engaged and enthusiastic about being a part of the program.

“That enthusiasm is really important and a great indicator of the health of a program overall.”

In addition to the positive experiences and opinions expressed by the students, Northup said the sense of community the faculty possesses was a noteworthy and attractive quality that informed his decision to join the university.

“(Another) factor was how much the faculty seemed to really enjoy being at SDSU and had favorable opinions of each other,” Northup said. “When I saw the strong camaraderie among the faculty, it seemed like a group who would welcome me into the fold and would work with me to build whatever the next phase of the school is.”

JMS professor and chair of the search committee Amy Schmitz Weiss said Northup possesses exceptional leadership qualities to help elevate the school to another level.

“I believe Dr. Temple Northup will be an excellent director for the School of JMS,” Schmitz Weiss said. “He has the leadership profile to help take our School of JMS into a new chapter of growth and opportunity.”

Prior to becoming a professor and director at the University of Houston, Northup spent several years in Los Angeles as a sitcom writer. He then decided to return to school to pursue a career in academia.

“After I graduated from my undergraduate college, I moved directly to Los Angeles and started working in the entertainment industry,” he said. “I was there for seven years and worked on quite a few prime time television scripted comedies.”

Current Interim Director Noah Arceneaux said he is excited for Northup, as he has prior connections to the program and believes he will help rejuvenate the school with his outsider perspective.

“I think he’s a great pick for the job. He was already familiar with the school of JMS as he knows Dr. Bey-Ling Sha, the previous director of the school before me,” Arceneaux said. “He brings fresh energy and a new perspective to the school.”

Northup said he plans to immerse himself into the school to become familiar with the environment.

He also hopes to incorporate his ideas to further improve the program.

“My plan for the fall is to try to engage with as many people as I can in the school,” Northup said. “I am coming with a lot of ideas of what we can do, but I lack a lot of context and understanding of what has been going on in specifics, so I hope to gain a lot of that knowledge.”

With no word on whether the next school year will resume in-person classes or continue to utilize virtual platforms, Northup said he is still excited to join the university—even if his first year may not go exactly as planned.