Reprinted from Spring 2012 InterCom
By Bo Wood
Lee Bussell has worked for years to support his alma mater. The chief executive officer of Columbia's largest marketing communications firm, Chernoff Newman, says it's not entirely altruistic.
He recognizes helping the School of Journalism and Mass Communications become the best school possible will not only benefit future graduates, but also himself.
"Today my degree from SJMC is perceived by others around me not based on how good it was 40 or 35 years ago, but how good it is today," Bussell said.
"People look at me and say, 'You got a degree from SJMC. It's a great program today, therefore you must have learned a lot.' Quite frankly when I graduated it was an OK program. It was certainly not recognized as it has been in recent years as a top program."
has put his j-school degree to good use and returned
his professional experience to the benefit of the university.
As president of the USC Alumni Association and member
of the university's board of trustees, Bussell also serves
on the Academic Affairs and Faculty Liaison Committee,
Fiscal Policy Committee, Student-Trustee Liaison Committee,
Ad Hoc Committee on Development and Ad Hoc Committee
on Strategic Planning.
Chernoff Newman also has taken an interest in the school
because of the talent it can bring to the work force.
Bussell estimates half of his staff earned degrees from
"Since we hire so many people from the school,
it's in our agency's and clients' best interest to make
sure we have as good and strong graduates coming out
of there as possible."
However, Bussell knows the school must move forward
to continue to produce top quality graduates. Since 2003,
he has focused on getting a new facility and new technology
for the school as well as raising its level of awareness
and importance within USC.
"One of the things that I have been adamant about is both helping to convince the board of trustees and the administration that SJMC could be so much better if we had a better environment for students to learn in," said Bussell.
Charles Bierbauer, dean of the College of Mass Communications and Information Studies, knows Bussell's support has been fundamental in getting things moving in the right direction.
"What Lee Bussell has done in the 10 years I have known him is to be one of our most stalwart supporters. This school, as good as we like to think it is, can be not just incrementally but exponentially better a place when we have an environment that facilitates communications," said Dean Bierbauer.
The school is slated to move to a renovated and expanded Health Sciences building with construction anticipated to start in late 2013.
Apart from the exterior and surrounding area, Bussell
is excited about how much potential there is to make
the inside on par with the premier facilities in the
"The interior is going to be flexible enough to change as the industry changes. It's going to make you want to come to class more than when I was a student because the environment will be inviting."
Another part of the building is the technology associated with the new environment.
"To really allow students to add value to an organization
from day one, they have to not only know the principles
of communications, but they need to be able to use the
technology from day one," Bussell said.
"Making sure we have facilities that have the latest and greatest technology will help our students get jobs, succeed in those jobs and help them rise up in the organizations they are in."