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Sarah Bartlett to Step Down as Newmark J-School Dean

  • By Newmark J-School Staff
Andrew Mendelson

Sarah Bartlett, dean of the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York, announced today that after two decades at CUNY, she will retire next June following the end of the academic year. By that time, she will have served nearly nine years as dean of the journalism school.

Under Bartlett’s leadership, the J-School expanded its innovative programs and attained record enrollment while increasing the diversity of its student body and faculty. The school also received a transformational gift from Craig Newmark, the craigslist founder and philanthropist.

Bartlett not only was the architect of an ambitious blueprint for her institution at the start of her tenure, she worked tirelessly to ensure its execution, building the school’s academics to keep pace with – and even race ahead of – the news industry’s ever-changing demands. She did so, she said today in a note to the J-School community, while doing what fine journalists do — meeting her own deadline for retirement.

Bartlett said she chose to retire now because she wants to devote more time to family, friends, and personal pursuits and because she is confident the school is in a strong position to undertake a leadership transition. “It has been the thrill of a lifetime to have helped build the J-School, and I am excited to see where the next dean takes it from here,” said Bartlett.

Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez will be sharing details on the national search process to appoint Bartlett’s successor in the coming months.

“Dean Bartlett has helped build the school of journalism at CUNY into a beacon for the future of the field,” the Chancellor said. “She has spurred the development of programs to train new generations of journalists and help them leverage evolving business models, technologies, and platforms. She has expanded the J-School’s efforts to make the industry more inclusive and those who work in the field more diverse. We thank Sarah for two decades of service and commitment to CUNY and the J-School. Her efforts will register for years to come, reflected in the school’s stellar offerings, the success of its graduates, and the many important stories they’ll tell.”

As one of the school’s founding professors in 2006, Bartlett ensured her legacy as a leading journalism educator, creating both the urban and the business and economics reporting programs. She also co-founded the school’s Center for Community Media, which provides resources for news outlets covering underrepresented communities. Her groundbreaking research demonstrating how few NewYork City government advertising dollars were spent in local media helped spawn new policies to redirect those funds.

Bartlett was appointed dean in 2014, succeeding founding dean Stephen B. Shepard. She joined CUNY in 2002 as the Bloomberg Chair of Business Journalism at Baruch College after a distinguished career that included reporting and editing stints at BusinessWeek magazine, The New York Times, and Oxygen Media, where she was editor-in-chief.

During her tenure as dean, she expanded the academic footprint of the school, helping to design and launch a Master of Arts in Engagement Journalism, the nation’s first bilingual (Spanish/English) journalism master’s program, and, most recently, an online entrepreneurial certificate program for independent journalists looking to develop their own news ventures.

Bartlett also solidified the school’s mission to support journalists at every stage of their professional lives by introducing mid-career reporting and technical training. In 2019, she helped start the Executive Program in News Innovation and Leadership that has attracted talent from around the globe.

While focused on growth, Bartlett has also been unwavering in her commitment to increase the diversity of the school’s student body. Among other initiatives, she created an eight-week summer program for college students from underrepresented communities, eliminated the GRE requirement for admission, and launched the Ida B. Wells Scholars program. While the school’s enrollment increased by more than 40% under Bartlett, the percentage of students of color went from 37% to more than half.

To fuel the school’s expansion, Bartlett created a nonprofit foundation and recruited journalistic and civic leaders as members. These have included MSNBC’s Ali Velshi, former New York Times chairman and publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., pathbreaking journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, former CBS News president Andrew Heyward, former New York Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch, Wall Street Journal managing editor Karen Pensiero, and J2 Global CEO Vivek Shah.

With the help of the foundation, Bartlett was instrumental in raising nearly $70 million for new programs, including the $20 million gift from Newmark, for whom the school was named in 2019. During the coronavirus pandemic, Bartlett leaped into action, raising $1 million for emergency assistance so that no student in the Class of 2020 had to drop out due to financial concerns. She did it by tapping into a potent network of industry and community connections. The hard work also ensured that all 2020 students worked in paid summer internships, a hallmark of the school’s master’s degree programs. Under Bartlett, the J-School has been able to sustain its affordability, providing scholarship support to 75% of its students.

“I have greatly admired Sarah’s leadership,” said Craig Newmark, who serves on the foundation board. “She has built innovative and smart programs and kept the J-School going during challenging circumstances. She has also been a fierce advocate for people who might not have gotten a shot at a quality journalism education.”

The J-School’s more than 1,000 alumni work in such major newsrooms as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Marshall Project, and ProPublica, as well as in community-focused media and nonprofits like The City, where Bartlett serves as vice chair of the board. The quality of the graduates’ work is reflected in the array of professional honors they’ve received, including the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Audio Reporting.

Walter Smith-Randolph, a 2010 graduate who is investigative editor/lead reporter at Connecticut Public Broadcasting and chair of the school’s Alumni Board, spoke for many in the J-School community when he said, “The J-School will forever be indebted to Dean Bartlett for her steady and unshakable leadership. She’s gone from teaching dozens of students urban politics to raising millions of dollars and cementing the J-School’s legacy. Our endowment has grown, our name recognition has increased, and our alums have fanned out across the globe, telling impactful stories that matter. It’s a tall order to fill Sarah’s shoes.”