FMU professor awarded Advisor of the Year from students, rebooted student media association

By Sarah Jones, SPJ Region 3 spring intern, SPJ student member, 2018-2019 Editor-in-chief of The PatriotFrancis Marion University

David Baxley
David Baxley

Florence, SOUTH CAROLINA —  David Baxley, mass communication professor at Francis Marion University and member of the Society of Professional Journalists, was presented the FMU Advisor of the Year award at the university’s Student Life awards on April 17.

The awards ceremony, which was organized by the Division of Student Affairs, was held to recognize students who excelled throughout the academic year and honor specific professors. Baxley, who is the advisor of the Student Media Association (SMA) at FMU, was nominated by one of his students, Cierra Pinckney.

Baxley worked in broadcast journalism for more than 17 years before he began teaching. He held positions in the broadcast news industry in Birmingham, Montgomery, Tuscaloosa and Huntsville, Alabama; Dallas, Texas; and Lawton, Oklahoma. Baxley is also a meteorologist.

Baxley with award
Baxley won the Advisor of the Year from FMU’s Student Life awards.

He is a graduate from Mississippi State University in with a bachelor’s degree in geoscience/broadcast meteorology and University of Mississippi with a master’s degree in journalism. 

Sharon Dunten, assistant regional director of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) – Region 3, said Baxley is a passionate journalist who brings his career experiences to the next generation of journalists.

“I wasn’t surprised when I heard that Baxley was recognized by his students,” Dunten said. “David is committed to making sure his students are ready to enter the job force by exposing them directly to communication professionals in the field this past year. He has an energy that motivates not only his students, but also his peers.”

Completing his second year as a FMU professor, Baxley said the organization [Student Media Association] has only been reactivated since spring 2017 after being on a hiatus for several years.

I’m honored that I am part of a group that wants to succeed in life and want to get something out of their college career. – David Baxley

“I think our student organization is a growing organization that wants to improve and do more things next semester,” he said. “I’m honored that I am a part of a group that wants to succeed in life and want to get something out of their college career. They also want to have interaction with other people who are interested in journalism, public relations and multimedia; I think that’s what our organization does for these students.”

One of the biggest projects the organization has presented since reactivation was a panel discussion in the fall 2017 for students to gain career advice from professionals in the journalism world, said Baxley.

FMU panel 10 17
The FMU Student Media Association held a panel discussion with professionals; From the left: Jessica Imbimbo, Joshua Lloyd, Ashley Talley, Victoria Spechko, Justin Dorsey and Sharon Dunten. Caleb Reeves photo

Members of this panel included reporters Jessica Imbimbo, multi-platform producer at News 19 WLTX;  and Joshua Lloyd [now digital media coordinator at FMU], from the Florence Morning News; News Director Ashley Talley from WMBF News; News Director Victoria Spechko from WPDE News; reporter Justin Dorsey from WBTW News 13; and Sharon Dunten, assistant regional director of the Region 3 Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ). During this panel session, students were able to listen to responses from the panelists and ask them questions toward the end of the session.

Baxley said the panel was a great example of how an organization should help students make connections they need to succeed in the future, understand what their chosen field will be like once they graduate and make sure students meet the standards their jobs.

“He [Baxley] truly loves what he does, and it shows in the way he teaches his students.” – JaConna Brooker

“I’m proud to be a part of students’ lives,” Baxley said. “I think that’s the biggest thing I will take from being the advisor of SMA. It’s being a part of people’s lives and hopefully I can help them in some small way as they make their way through FMU.”

JaConner Brooker mug
JaConna Brooker

Mass Communication student JaConna Brooker said Baxley is one of her favorite professors because if he sees potential in a student, he will do whatever he can to push you to be the best you can.

“If you go to him and ask for help, he will do everything he has to do in order to ensure that you have everything you need to succeed,” Brooker said. “He truly loves what he does, and it shows in the way he teaches his students.”

Brooker, who is also a student member of SMA, said she wasn’t surprised about Baxley receiving this award because he is always trying to find new and creative ways to keep students involved on campus and strives for them to reach their maximum potential.

FMU trip and CBS 46 2 with reporter.jpg
David Baxley, along with Kay Packett, assistant professor of communications at FMU, escorted students to CBS46 Atlanta. From the left, Michelle Carter, JaConna Brooker, CBS 46 Multi-media journalist Ashley Thompson and Brandon Rybak. (Photo by David Baxley)

“One of my favorite things about him is that he truly cares for other peoples’ ideas on issues which is a major key when running an organization,” Brooker said. “I get real life experience [from SMA] of what to expect in the real world when I go to look for a job. It’s also fun to meet new people from different backgrounds, it helps me get a feel of many skills.”

Brooker, along with other Francis Marion University mass communication students, were escorted by Baxley during their 2018 spring break to Atlanta where they visited CNN Headquarters, CBS46 Atlanta, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Anna Ruth Public Relations firm.

David Baxley is a SPJ South Carolina member and also writes a column called “Baxley Bites” for SPJ Region 3’s



Sarah Jones FMU
Sarah Jones

Sarah Jones will be a senior in 2018-2019 school year at Francis Marion University, Florence, South Carolina, majoring in mass communication and minoring in  psychology. She is a member of the FMU Student Media Association and will be editor-in-chief for The Patriot, FMU’s student newspaper. Jones is also a SPJ student member. Her hometown is Lugoff, South Carolina. She hopes to pursue a career in public relations.


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