Class of 1970 graduate Michael Bugeja reflects on his journey from proud Golden Bear to acclaimed professor
June 3, 2020
By Alex Shapiro
In 1970, Michael Bugeja was a senior on the brink of graduating LHS. Fifty years later, he is an esteemed educator at one of the top schools of journalism and communication in the country.
When Bugeja—who was inducted into the LHS Academic Hall of Fame in 1992—was in high school, he served as president of the German Club and had a profound interest in chemistry, physics and writing.
Starting his sophomore year, Bugeja consistently made the honor roll each marking period. Tenth grade was also the year he joined The Lighthouse staff. He said back then, The Lighthouse was a four-page newsletter printed on copy paper.
As a columnist, Bugeja said he wrote about student government and the arts in addition to publishing some of his poetry.
“My columns in The Lighthouse also, at times, were published in the town newspaper The Commercial Leader. I enjoyed that connection,” Bugeja said.
He said his favorite teacher was Angela Wisneski, who taught English.
“High school teachers often launch careers that college professors get to witness,” Bugeja said. “She wrote in my senior yearbook, ‘You will write like Shakespeare, Shakespeare.’ A half-century later, I remember her and that inspirational sentence.”
Flash forward half a century, and Bugeja has a publication record that includes 14 non-fiction books, 15 book chapters, 10 creative writing books and over 125 articles. He has had three solo-authored books published by Oxford University Press.
Since his days growing up in Lyndhurst, Bugeja has moved approximately 1,000 miles west to Ames, Iowa, where he lives with his wife of 41 years Diane as well as 17-year-old Mikayle, who is the youngest of his three children.
For almost two decades, Bugeja has been a professor at the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University. He now teaches media ethics, technology and social change to about 250 students each year.
Bugeja started off his post-secondary education by studying German and English at St. Peter’s College, which is now called St. Peter’s University, in Jersey City, N.J. He went on to earn his master’s degree in journalism and mass communication at South Dakota State University in Brookings, S.D. He then studied English at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Okla., where he received his Ph.D. in 1985.
“I loved music and took German to study abroad. I loved journalism and English, so I did those for advanced degrees,” Bugeja said. “I published a journal article in the flagship journal of journalism, Journalism Quarterly, when I was a master’s student. I published poems with major presses while I was a Ph.D. student.”
Before becoming a professor, Bugeja worked for four years at the wire service United Press International. He was a reporter, correspondent and bureau chief in the 1970s.
He entered academia in 1979, working at the School of Journalism and Broadcasting at Oklahoma State University and the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio before joining Greenlee’s faculty in 2003.
Bugeja said he loves his job at Greenlee because of the school’s tradition of excellence and the quality of the students it attracts.
“We have the most rigorous internship in the country—400 hours supervised by an industry employee and a professor,” Bugeja said.
He said Greenlee is among the schools with the oldest continuously accredited mass communication schools in the United States.
“I have some of the best journalists and advertising/public relations students in the country. They are extraordinarily talented. I love all of my courses,” Bugeja said. “[I make] sure that students are prepared for the workplace. Almost all of our graduates get jobs in the industry within six months of graduation.”
During his time as a professor at Greenlee, Bugeja has earned many top awards including the college’s award for Outstanding Achievement in Departmental Leadership (2008), the university’s award for Outstanding Achievement in Administration (2013) and the national Scripps Howard Foundation Journalism Administrator of the Year Award (2015).
In 2019, Bugeja was granted one of Iowa State’s top honors.
“To earn the title of Distinguished Professor at a research institution of science and technology is the height of achievement. My peers bestowed the title on me, and that makes it extra special,” Bugeja said. “It’s my greatest accomplishment.”