For the past 28 years, UF professor Julie Dodd has helped students find their passions.
Dodd, a journalism professor, has taught more than 11,000 students in about 14 buildings at UF. About 220 public relations and journalism students take her course, Multimedia Writing, every semester. On Tuesday, she’ll teach her last class in Weimer Hall.
“I think it’ll be like students graduating from college,” said Dodd, who officially retires in August. “In some ways you’re looking forward to having a different experience, but then there’s going to be things you’re going to miss.”
Before Dodd retires, she’ll spend her summer transitioning Multimedia Writing to be available online. It will be the second time the course has changed. When she first taught it, originally called Mass Communication, students didn’t go out and report. They wrote from worksheets from a filing cabinet. Dodd changed the class to give her students real-world experience in social media, blogging and interviewing.
“I just felt like so much of communications work is about working with people,” she said. “So I was really interested in us getting out of the filing cabinet.” Over the years, Dodd used teaching to build students’ confidence, she said.
“I think college students want to be challenged,” she said. “But I think they also want to feel like whatever they’re being asked to accomplish is doable.”
Bonnie Layton said Dodd helped her find her strength in teaching. Dodd was Layton’s mentor as she completed her mass communication master’s degree at UF in 1990. Layton, now a lecturer at Indiana University, said Dodd was the first to encourage her to teach.
“With Julie, once you’re a student of hers, you’re always a student,” she said. “She has done so much for me.” Dodd was patient and always available to talk, Layton said.
“I always think I need to give that to my own students,” she said. “She set the bar very high.”
Dodd will leave the lecture hall for the mountains. She’ll continue blogging for Friends of the Smokies, a nonprofit organization which fundraises for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and focus on nature photography, she said.
She also plans to complete the Hike 100 challenge, in which she will hike 100 miles through the Great Smoky Mountains to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service.
Dodd will leave a legacy at the college. The Graduate Student Teaching Award in the college will be renamed the Julie Dodd Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Teaching.
“I can’t think of a better retirement gift the college could have given me,” she said.