This past fall, Dr. Andrea Frantz announced that she was stepping down as the department head and associate professor of Communication at Robert Morris University (RMU) to return to Buena Vista University (BVU) in Storm Lake, Iowa, where her journey started almost 23 years ago.
Frantz and her husband, Michael, left their hometown nearly 15 years ago and plan to return home.
“We are going home,” Frantz said. “We are going back to the university where we started our careers in 1989.”
Her decision to go back home was a difficult one.
“There was a lot of soul searching that we had to do with all of this, but in the end, it seems it was the absolute right decision for us, both personally and professionally,” she explained.
Frantz’s new role will be as the Associated Professor of Digital Media at BVU.
“When I first was there it was a Mass Communication Department, and now it has really changed to this digital media focus and it’s really based on storytelling across platform,” she said. “So it’s a good fit for me.”
According to an interview Frantz did for the “Change a Life” campaign, she was not born a communicator, and like many other students, her decision to be a writer, especially a journalist, did not happen overnight.
She met several creative and outstanding mentors throughout her journey. Among them was her third grade teacher who was aware of her struggles with speaking in public.
“[She told me] you need to understand that when you have a pencil in your hand, you can talk, you can talk through writing,” Frantz said in the interview regarding her teacher.
“She changed my life that way and helped me understand that I could be a writer,” she added.
Frantz began teaching journalism courses at RMU as an associate professor of Communication in Fall 2009. At the end of that academic year, in Spring 2010, she became the department head of Communication.
In addition to teaching journalism courses, Frantz is an advisor to the Society for Collegiate Journalists (SCJ), which is a national organization for students with a journalism concentration.
In March of this year, Frantz won the 2012 Outstanding New Advisor Award from SCJ, and was recognized with the RMU Student Government Association’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 2011. She also organized, and ran, the Festival of Five Freedoms, which celebrated the First Amendment.
Frantz has witnessed the journalism program at RMU grow a lot since her arrival three years ago.
“We have moved forward in the curriculum and certainly with the co-curricular, with making The Sentry an area of convergence, so that television, radio, and print are all together on that website,” she said. “I’ve seen a lot of advancement of students in that particular area toward where the industry is right now. It’s very exciting to me that I could be part of that, and be part of the vision.”
Frantz gets very excited when talking about her journalism classes. Last Spring, she and Christine Holtz, professor of Media Arts, went with 19 journalism and photography students to Sneem, Ireland.
The students interviewed or photographed the residents of Sneem. After returning from Ireland, the photography students produced photo books while the journalism students produced articles and video documentaries.
Frantz ultimately believes students need to connect with the community from the start.
“It’s one thing to be in a classroom and talk about connecting with a community, which is at its heart what journalism is,” said Frantz last summer in the “Walk, Click, Pause” article found in the university’s Foundations Magazine. “It’s another thing completely to have students go into a community and connect with it on a real level, and that’s what’s happening here.”
This summer, RMU will partner with Marywood University to produce a book with a poetry component after they return from Ireland. Next year, Frantz hopes to include the study abroad trip to Sneem in her course at BVU, and ultimately partner with both RMU and Marywood.
“It will be a great opportunity for all those students to get to know other students who are doing the same things,” said Frantz.
Frantz holds a Ph.D. in Rhetorical and Professional Communication, and a Master of Arts in Rhetoric and Composition from Iowa State University. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in English, from Simpson College.
Before coming to RMU, Frantz was a tenured associate professor of Communication Studies at Wilkes University, and a mass communication and English instructor at BVU.
Frantz believes that students grow when they are doing something uncomfortable and unfamiliar.
“I hope they remember me as someone who supported them, but pushed them because my goal is always to push students out of their comfort zones and into a place where they can grow,” said Frantz. “I’d love for them to think of me as the person who pushed them.”
Frantz would also like students to think of her as someone who was a strong advocate for their voices.
“I do believe in the importance of students’ voices, and students having a say in their education, and their educational environment,” she said. “And if they remembered me as the hardest teacher they’ve ever had, I’m ok with that too, because I don’t want to be easy; I don’t want them to slack in my class.”
According to Frantz, her position as a journalism professor will be filled by Dr. Anthony Moretti, from Point Park University.
“[Moretti] comes to us from the broadcast journalism field,” she said. “He also has great experience in sports reporting, so he’ll be a good fit here.”
Moretti, a former professional journalist, earned his Ph.D. in Mass Communication from the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University in 2003.
“Yes, it is true. I am moving on. I have accepted a wonderful opportunity to teach at Robert Morris,” Moretti posted in his personal blog. “I begin my assignment there with the start of Fall 2012 semester.”
Frantz’s love for her students made her decision to leave RMU a very difficult one.
“To leave is very difficult emotionally,” said Frantz. “The hardest part for me is leaving my students.”