The Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University has named Debra Solberg Gibson the recipient of its 2021 James W. Schwartz Award. The annual award recognizes distinguished service to journalism and communication and is the highest honor conferred by the school.
Gibson’s career includes both faculty and staff roles at the university. Since 2004, Gibson has taught and advised hundreds of Greenlee students as a senior lecturer and associate professor of practice. Her course topics include reporting, writing, magazine publishing, principles of journalism, fashion and beauty writing and social media influencer marketing. For 17 years, she served as the Greenlee School’s first Meredith Professional in Residence, overseeing Greenlee’s Meredith Apprentice Program, which places Iowa State students in editorial, digital and graphic design pre-professional positions within the Meredith Corporation. Gibson retired from Iowa State in May 2021.
Gibson’s career at Iowa State began in 1982 after a stint as editor of Farm Review, the Spencer Daily Reporter’s monthly agribusiness publication based in Spencer, Iowa. She first joined the ISU Alumni Association as an information specialist, serving as the principal writer and editor for the department as well as the alumni editor of The Iowa Stater tabloid. In 1987, Gibson became the director of publications and the founding editor of VISIONS magazine, the official alumni magazine of Iowa State University. In nine years under Gibson’s editorship, VISIONS netted more than 70 regional and national awards in writing, design and photography from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), including an unprecedented six consecutive Sweepstakes Awards and three Best Alumni Magazine awards. Gibson also worked for Iowa State’s Office of University Relations as a communications specialist from 2000 to 2004.
Gibson remains a freelance writer, editor and editorial consultant whose clients have included Better Homes and Gardens, Family Money and others. She graduated with dual degrees in family environment/family services and home economics journalism from Iowa State University in 1981.
For her efforts in teaching and mentoring, Gibson received the 2018 ISU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Award for Outstanding Achievement in Teaching and the 2016 ISU Alumni Association’s Faculty and Staff Inspiration Award, which presents a way for former ISU students to recognize current or former ISU faculty or staff members who had a significant influence in their lives as students at ISU.
For more than 30 years, Gibson has been an active ISU and Ames volunteer and currently serves on the ISU Performing Arts Council and on leadership teams and committees for Lutheran Church of Hope-Ames. She also serves on the advisory board for Salto, a collective for the next generation of female leaders.
“By drawing on her professional experiences and connections, Deb helped launch hundreds of careers during her years at the Greenlee School. Her impact is felt by so many students who took her magazine publishing and writing classes, experienced her mentorship as a faculty adviser, and worked as Meredith apprentices. The Schwartz Award is a fitting capstone of her impressive professional career,” said Michael Dahlstrom, director of the Greenlee School.
“As I worked my way through Iowa State, I never dreamed one degree would launch me on to so many different career paths: reporter, writer, editor, media liaison and ISU faculty member. I firmly believe, 40 years later, my professional experiences underscore the value and integrity of an ISU education,” Gibson said.
Gibson will be recognized at the Oct. 1 Greenlee School Advisory Council Meeting and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Honors and Awards Ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 21.
About the James W. Schwartz Award
The James W. Schwartz Award is the highest honor conferred by Iowa State University’s Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication. It is awarded in honor of alumnus James W. Schwartz (1941), who served as department chair of the school for 13 years and president of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. The Schwartz Award has been presented since 1978 to leaders in journalism and related fields. The school’s advisory council and faculty nominate candidates and faculty and staff select the winner. Previous honorees include four Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished broadcast journalists, authors, advertising and public relations executives, newspaper and magazine publishers and editors and leading writers in a variety of specialty areas.
About the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication
At Iowa State University’s Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, students create their adventures in a top communication program. In the classroom, students practice the latest communication trends and methods as they are mentored by award-winning practitioners and respected scholars. They also apply their skills through involvement in student media and organizations. A required professional media internship gives undergraduates an industry experience that builds their resumes and portfolios and prepares them for success as they enter the workforce. The Greenlee School has been continuously accredited by ACEJMC since its initial accreditation in 1948. The Greenlee School offers three undergraduate majors – journalism and mass communication, advertising and public relations – and a master’s degree in journalism and mass communication.