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Saturday, January 22, 2022

As it prepares for a curriculum overhaul for new students, UF’s journalism department will be led by a new chairman.

Wayne Wanta, who was an associate professor at UF from 1999 to 2001, was named the new head of the department Monday.

Wanta, who is leaving his position as the Welch-Bridgewater chairman of sports journalism at Oklahoma State University, was praised by interim chairman David Ostroff as one of the top journalism academics in America.

Ostroff added that his familiarity with UF was a big selling point.

“Because he’s been on faculty before, he knows the culture a little bit,” Ostroff said.

William McKeen, who led the department since 1998, left UF last year for a position at Boston University. Since then, Ostroff, who is also the telecommunications department chairman, has led the journalism department.

John Wright, the dean of the College of Journalism and Communications, said another of Wanta’s selling points was his experience with sports journalism and international journalism.

Wright said he expects Wanta to work with the University Athletic Association to expand the journalism school’s involvement with GatorZone.com and GatorVision, the athletic association’s news programs, and further the sports journalism options at UF.

Wanta has eight years of newspaper experience, which includes jobs at the Austin American-Statesman, The Albuquerque Journal and The Wisconsin State Journal, as well as 27 years of teaching experience.

Wanta’s one shortcoming, Wright said, is his lack of administrative experience.

“He’ll find challenges with scheduling and making sure every single student who needs a seat in a class to move forward toward graduation gets one,” he said.

Ostroff said he’ll help ease Wanta into his position, most likely starting with assigning graduate assistants to different classes for the fall semester.

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“Once you step down as an administrator, you try to step back and get out of the next guy’s way,” he said. “It’s his department now.”

Wanta was not available for comment by press time.

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