Mike Dorsher was a senior in college before he stepped onto a plane – and then flew from Minneapolis to London to study abroad. That course taught him the meaning of independence, culture – and bangers and mash.
New ieiMedia Executive Director Mike Dorsher, Ph.D., at this month’s AEJMC convention in Minneapolis. Photo by ieiMedia Oslo Program Director Steve Listopad
Today, Dorsher, a professor emeritus and former Fulbright Scholar and Washington Post editor, takes the helm of an organization that leads an average of 100 students a year through 10 study abroad courses on five continents.
Dorsher becomes just the second executive director in the 12-year history of the Institute for Education in International Media.
ieiMedia President and Founder Andy Ciofalo chose Dorsher to direct the institute because they both are committed to delivering study abroad courses that inspire in-depth communication among students and people around the world.
Ciofalo, professor emeritus at Loyola University and online professor at Gonzaga University, has been running programs abroad for communications students since 2001. ieiMedia is unique in its dedication to communication programs in partnership with other universities, Ciofalo said, noting it has ongoing relationships with the University of Jamestown, James Madison, Rutgers, Colorado State, the University of Baltimore, Winston-Salem State, Cal State-Fullerton, San Francisco State, Hebrew University and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
“Dr. Dorsher has the energy and experience to direct safe and affordable study abroad programs that prepare students to be world citizens and communication professionals,” Ciofalo said. “A strong writer with excellent digital skill sets, Mike will be leading us in some new directions that will expand our mission, develop our social media outreach and create a more compelling digital presence.”
At a time when the world is in turmoil over terrorism and North Americans are seeking new leadership, ieiMedia is uniquely positioned to help students make sense of it all, Dorsher said. “We don’t do tourism. We use journalism and other forms of communication as the vehicle for our study abroad students to have meaningful conversations with people where they live and work. Then we communicate what we’ve heard to audiences back home, using whichever media fit the story best.
“Our motto is ‘telling the world’s stories,’” Dorsher added. “For us, journalism is a window on the world and a doorway to democracy.”
This summer and for the past two years, Dorsher directed ieiMedia’s program based in Nice, France. All of his students returned to North America safely before last month’s deadly truck attack in Nice, but ieiMedia has now suspended its operations in France – and Turkey – due to foreseeable terrorism possibilities there, even though the threat to small groups of students is minimal.
Instead, ieiMedia is opening new multimedia journalism programs for the summer of 2017 in southeast Australia; Kyoto, Japan; and Bologna, Italy. The institute is also announcing its first program to be held in January, during most campuses’ winter break, and its first in North America – in Cuba.
“We chose these sites because they ranked high with our partner campuses in North America and in a survey we conducted among our student alumni, professors and social media friends and followers,” Dorsher said. “We are committed to providing the broadest range of safe and accessible communications study abroad programs.”
ieiMedia is also continuing its playwriting and journalism program in Armagh, Northern Ireland, along with successful multimedia journalism programs based in Urbino, Italy; Valencia, Spain; Oslo, Norway; Jerusalem, Israel; and Split and Zagreb, Croatia.
“The strength of ieiMedia is its program directors,” Dorsher said. “We have a student to staff ratio of just 5 to 1, and among our program directors and faculty we have hundreds of years of collective teaching experience and hundreds of years of professional journalism experience, including two Pulitzer Prize winners.”
As executive director, Dorsher will work with ieiMedia’s program directors on recruitment of students and faculty, along with coordination of admissions, budgets, curriculum and assessments. He also will be the editor of a new website that serially features the journalism of ieiMedia students throughout the year and offers their stories for free syndication.
Dorsher served as ieiMedia’s admissions director this year after taking a budget-cut buyout this January from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he was a full professor of journalism and communication. He taught new media journalism and media ethics courses at UW-Eau Claire for 16 years, co-authoring a leading media ethics text along with many articles and presentations that premiered at AEJMC conferences.
He never lost the wanderlust instilled as an undergraduate during that first flight to London, he said. “I always remembered how great it felt to meet people and go places that had just been names on a map on my bedroom wall.”
Dorsher returned to the Twin Cities, completed a B.A. in journalism from the University of St. Thomas and launched an award-winning 20-year career in news, capped by four years as a founding editor of washingtonpost.com. In between, he returned to graduate school twice, to earn a master’s in public administration from the University of North Dakota and a doctorate in mass communication from the University of Maryland.
He made his travel daydreams come true for dozens of others after becoming a journalism professor and earning grants to take students to England, Peru and France. Dorsher also earned a Fulbright Fellowship that let him spend the 2008-09 academic year crisscrossing Canada to research its media. Now he is capping his career as ieiMedia’s executive director, combining his passions for travel, cultures, languages, journalism and education.
“Not all ieiMedia students will have the opportunity to become foreign correspondents or even working journalists back home, but they all will have the opportunity to become better world citizens – in a safe, fun and affordable way,” Dorsher said. “My job is to make sure of that.”