Faculty & Staff
The School of Journalism faculty and staff assemble in front of Don Anderson Hall in 2023.
Read more about the staff and faculty:
Office: DAH 205
Phone: (406) 243-5250
Director and Professor Lee Banville joined the University of Montana faculty in 2009 after 13 years at PBS NewsHour, where he was editor-in-chief of the Online NewsHour.
With a background in political reporting and digital and social media, Lee teaches courses that include covering elections and the First Amendment and journalism law. He also often teaches the introductory Journalism and American Society class and an information literacy class, “Calling Bullsh*t.”
He received his bachelor of arts in English and government from the College of William & Mary and earned his master’s degree in political science from the University of Montana. Before joining the PBS NewsHour, Lee worked briefly in public relations and as a stringer at the Virginian-Pilot. He is the author of "Debating Our Destiny: Presidential Debate Moments that Shaped History," written for MacNeil/Lehrer Productions in 2012 and updated in 2013. He also authored a two-volume encyclopedia, "Covering American Politics in the 21st Century: An Encyclopedia of News Media Titans, Trends, and Controversies," that was published in January 2017 by ABC-CLIO. He appears often in the press analyzing Montana politics and the media.
He is married to faculty member Jule Banville, and they have two girls. When not pacing nervously in front of a class with a Diet Dr. Pepper, he can usually be found curling or reading the latest Irish crime fiction.
Office: DAH 427
Phone: (406) 243-2237
Associate Professor Jule Banville began teaching at the School of Journalism in 2009 as an adjunct professor before joining the full-time faculty in the fall of 2011. She teaches basic and advanced courses, including elements of news writing, feature writing, opinion writing and advanced audio.
In October of 2021, Jule launched her seven-episode crime podcast "An Absurd Result," which tells the story of a 1987 assault on an 8-year-old girl in Billings, Montana and the investigation and fallout that followed. Mopac Audio released the podcast, which is available just about anywhere podcasts are available.
Before she began teaching, Jule worked for newspapers, public radio and ran the editorial for a website covering the Rocky Mountain West. Before moving to Missoula, she was the assistant managing editor at Washington City Paper, the alternative newsweekly serving the District of Columbia. She was a daily news reporter at the Erie Times-News in Erie, PA, for a decade. She’s published several articles about the news business for altweeklies.com. She also worked as a radio producer for WNYC, the New York NPR station, as part of the original staff that launched “The Next Big Thing.” She continued work in radio as independent producer for various national radio shows.
In 2015, she launched the podcast, Last Best Stories, which consists of sound-rich features only mostly unique to Montana. In 2021, she reported, hosted and produced the podcast, An Absurd Result, a seven-episode narrative that investigates the fallout from a childhood rape and legal holes connected to statutes of limitation.
She earned her bachelor’s degree in political journalism from Mercyhurst University in Erie and her master’s in journalism from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism in NYC.
At UM, she serves on the Faculty Senate and as the faculty adviser to the Montana Kaimin, UM's independent student newspaper and website. She also helps run the statewide high-school journalism contest. Jule is married to fellow faculty member Lee Banville. They have two girls.
Assistant Professor Jason Begay joined the faculty in 2010 after spending six years as a full-time reporter for The Navajo Times in Window Rock, Ariz.
He teaches courses in reporting and diversity and co-teaches the school’s award-winning Native News Project, which produces an annual publication and website that covers issues facing Montana tribal communities. He has served on the board of directors for the Native American Journalists Association as its vice president, treasurer and president.
Jason is a 2002 graduate of the School of Journalism. He won a prestigious New York Times internship, and worked as a reporter for Portland’s Oregonian before returning to his home, the Navajo reservation on the Arizona-New Mexico border, to work for The Navjao Times.
Jason grew up in Gallup, N.M., and interned for the Times at age 19. As a journalism student at UM, he interned at newspapers in Duluth, Minn., and Oakland, Calif.
He earned a Masters in Business Administration in 2015.
Office: DAH 407
Phone: (406) 243-4143
Denise Dowling began teaching at the School of Journalism in 2000. She has served as chair of the school’s Radio-TV Department and as the interim dean from 2012-2014 and from 2018-2019. Most recently, she served as the Journalism School's director.
Denise teaches courses in journalism ethics, television writing, anchoring and producing, and radio reporting and hosting. Her students produce content for commercial and public television and radio stations and she serves on the Board of Directors for KBGA College Radio.
In 2018, Dowling’s sabbatical project earned her the Society of Professional Journalists national award for excellence in radio documentary. The program about a pre-teen Montanan making a gender transition also won the regional Edward R. Murrow award that year.
She came to UM after 20 years in TV news, first at KPAX-TV while an undergrad at UM. She moved on to stations in Montana, Colorado and Washington, working as a director, technical director, producer, executive producer and managing editor.
Denise spent 17 years working in Spokane, working at both the ABC and NBC affiliates. She won a number of Emmy, SPJ and Edward R. Murrow awards as part of teams that covered a firestorm, flooding, an ice storm and the arrest of a serial killer.
Dowling earned her bachelor’s degree in radio-television from the University of Montana and a master’s in learning and technology. She’s earned a number of awards from UM including the Tom Boone Town and Gown award for fostering deeper understanding between Missoula and UM. She serves on the Accrediting Committee for the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications and has served as a site team member for journalism programs around the country.
Denise describes herself as an enthusiastic tennis player, a mediocre golfer and an avid hiker. She is married to attorney Chris Johnson and has two children, both grown and out of the house, but still on her health insurance.
Office: DAH 409
Assistant Professor Joe Eaton joined the school’s faculty in the fall of 2013. He is a freelance writer for magazines and websites including National Geographic, The Atlantic, Pacific Standard and Wired.
Eaton teaches courses in public affairs reporting, investigative reporting and editing.
Before joining the faculty, he worked as an investigative reporter at the Washington, D.C.- based Center for Public Integrity. He has also been a reporter at the Roanoke Times in Virginia and Washington City Paper.
Eaton graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in English and earned his master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.
In his spare time he enjoys being with his wife and young son and tinkering with old sports cars.
Office: DAH 405
Phone: (406) 243-4747
Associate Professor Ray Fanning joined the University of Montana faculty in 2007 after a career in broadcast news and a stint teaching broadcast journalism courses at Columbia College Chicago.
Fanning teaches a variety of broadcast journalism courses as well as the curriculum in the lower division core, including online courses.
Fanning worked for almost 20 years in local broadcast news, most recently as a special project manager at KGW in Portland, Ore. He’s also worked for TV stations in Salt Lake City; Spokane, Wash., and Boise, Idaho. A native of Idaho Falls, Fanning received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Idaho, master of fine arts from Brandeis University and master’s in journalism from Northwestern University.
His series of radio reports for Montana Public Radio on wrongful convictions in Montana won a international ‘Best of Festival-News’ award from the Broadcast Education Association, a regional Edward R. Murrow award from the Radio- Television Digital News Association and a Non-Commercial Radio Program of the Year award from the Montana Broadcasters Association. In 2017, Fanning also reported and produced an hour-long documentary for Montana Public Radio called “Facing Race in Montana.”
Phone: (406) 243-2601
Associate Professor Jeremy Lurgio began teaching photojournalism and multimedia classes at the School of Journalism in 2007. He teaches classes in still photojournalism, videojournalism, mini-documentaries and outdoor adventure storytelling. He is best known as a co-teacher of the school’s award-winning Native News Project. Before joining the School of Journalism, Lurgio worked as a photographer and photo editor at community newspapers in Montana and he had a career as a freelance photographer.
Lurgio continues work as a freelance photographer and his work has appeared in newspapers and magazines that include the the Guardian, the New York Times, The Boston Globe, Washington Post, USA Today, High Country News, National Geographic Adventure, Men’s Journal, Northwest Fly Fishing, Montana Quarterly, Montana Magazine and Big Sky Journal.
Lurigo recently finished an immersive multimedia and photo gallery project for the Guardian about the water quality and the Whanganui River in New Zealand, the first river in the world to be granted legal personhood. Additionally, Lurgio has produced award-winning documentaries and films including:
“The Hard Way,” - the film, which documents the story of 89-year-old ultra-runner Bob Hayes, aired with Montana PBS and traveled around the world with film festivals including the Banff Mountain Film Festival, Mountainfilm, and Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival.
“River Queens: Highlight My Strengths” - the 15-minute film documents the story of 76-year-old waka ama coach, Howard Hyland, who retired from international paddling to return to his home river in New Zealand to start a competitive waka ama (outrigger canoe) club for youth on the Whanganui River - the first river in the world to be granted personhood. The film was an official selection at the 2020 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. See trailer here.
“Lost & Found Montana,” - the multimedia project tells the stories of 18 towns that nearly disappeared from the Montana state map. The interactive exhibit traveled nationally and was featured in three magazines including the High Country News and Montana Magazine.
He has also worked as a cinematography assistant director, editor, and drone operator on the following award winning short films:
“Paradise,” about An unlikely environmentalist, Bryan Wells, finds himself standing between Yellowstone National Park and an industrial-scale gold mine.
“The Ride”, about the sport of skoring, which combines fast horses and daredevil skiing.
“A Few Step Further,’ which follows the trials of a big game hunter and 100 mile running competitor.
In his free time he enjoys skiing, mountain biking, cyclocross racing, fly fishing and exploring the wilds of Montana with his family and dogs.
Office: DAH 413
Phone: (406) 243-2230
Professor Dennis Swibold began teaching at UM in 1989 and joined the School of Journalism’s permanent faculty two years later.
He teaches courses in reporting, editing, ethics and election coverage and helps to oversee such efforts as the school's legislative coverage and alumni magazine.
Before teaching, Dennis was a newspaper reporter Arizona and Montana. He was the editor of the Bozeman Daily Chronicle before coming to the university, and he later worked summers as a copy editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer and Salt Lake Tribune.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Arizona in 1979 and a master’s in journalism from UM in 1991. Dennis is the author of "Copper Chorus: Mining, Politics and the Montana Press, 1889-1959," a history of industrial domination of Montana newspapers. The work won the Western Writers of America’s 2007 award for best work of contemporary nonfiction. He continues to research and report on public affairs issues and lead conversations about the changing face of journalism. In 2014, he taught a graduate course in American political journalism at Shanghai International Studies University.
He has served on the boards of the Montana Innocence Project and the Montana Newspaper Association. He has been an adviser to Project Vote Smart and to efforts by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Montana Historical Society’s efforts to digitize American newspapers of historical value.
He and his wife, Julie, have an adult son, Colton. Outside of the classroom, Dennis enjoys history, fly-fishing and playing his beat-up Fender Telecaster.
Office: DAH 408
Phone: (406) 243-2227
Associate Professor Nadia White joined the faculty in 2006 after a career in newspaper journalism that included work throughout the West and in Washington, D.C.
She specializes in environmental and public affairs journalism, and teaches courses in science journalism, global current events and reporting. She is the director of UM's master's program in environmental science and natural resource journalism.
Nadia graduated from Bates College with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a concentration in Asian literature. She earned a master’s degree in journalism from the Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism.
Before coming to UM, Nadia reported for Maine’s Lewiston Sun, Minnesota’s Stillwater Gazette and the Daily Camera in Boulder, Colo. She was a reporter and editor at the Casper Star-Tribune in Wyoming and in the paper’s Washington, D.C., bureau.
Nadia has received several awards for her reporting and writing, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science Award of Excellence for work on brucellosis in central Asia; the Women’s Sports Foundation’s Best Columnist of the Year Award; and several Associated Press Public Service awards.
She received a Ted Scripps Fellowship in Environmental Journalism at the University of Colorado in 2004-05 and a World Affairs Fellowship from the International Center for Journalists in Washington, D.C., in 2003.
Adjunct and Visiting Faculty
Courtney Lowery Cowgill is an editor, writer, teacher and farmer who began teaching at the university in 2006 when she co-taught the Rural News Network project. Now, Cowgill specializes in teaching online courses (feature writing, elements of news writing and social media and engagement) at the School of Journalism and she oversees the Legislative and Community News Services, which provide daily and weekly coverage to scores of news publications and broadcasters across the state during the biennial Montana legislative sessions. She also manages the J-School's social media, marketing and and recruitment efforts.
From 2005 – 2009 she co-founded and was editor in chief of the award-winning online startup news magazine New West, which has since been sold and shuttered. She then went on to serve as the managing editor of PBS MediaShift, a national publication that covers media and technology. She has also been a reporter for the Associated Press, Lee Newspapers (covering the Montana Legislature) and a reporting intern at The Chronicle of Higher Education and the Great Falls Tribune.
Cowgill received her bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Montana is currently in the master's program in writing at Johns Hopkins University.
Chris Johns, Adjunct Instructor
Chris Johns was editor-in-chief of National Geographic from 2005-2014. He began his National Geographic career in 1995 as a photographer and had a variety of positions at the magazine before he became its editor. While he was editor, the magazine won 23 National Magazine Awards, and in 2008 he was named magazine editor of the year.
Subsequent to that job, he was chief content officer and director of the Centers of Excellence for National Geographic Media and now serves as program leader for National Geographic Society’s “Beyond Yellowstone” program, an assignment that will conclude at the end of this year.
Johns is teaching a course in conservation journalism, examining the powerful impact visual storytelling has had in the conservation movement. He also served at the T. Anthony Pollner Professor as the School of Journalism in 2019.
Breanna McCabe, Adjunct Instructor
Breanna McCabe is a producer at Montana PBS where she researches, photographs, writes and edits stories about Montana history, land, culture and public affairs. Her longform program “Ghost Forests” describes the plight of whitebark pine, and her latest documentary, “Higgins Ridge” shares a story of 20 smokejumpers surrounded in a 1961 wildfire. Additionally, she produces human interest stories for the popular series “Backroads of Montana” and reports for Montana PBS’ public affairs program, “Impact.”
Before joining Montana PBS, McCabe reported local news as a multimedia journalist for CBS affiliates in Missoula (KPAX-TV) and Spokane (KREM 2 News). She also worked as a news editor and videographer for the University of Montana’s communications team.
McCabe graduated from UM’s School of Journalism in 2009, and earned her master’s degree in environmental science and natural resource journalism from UM in 2020. She is a Missoula native with a ceaseless appetite for small-town cafes.
McCabe has taught introductory newswriting courses at UM intermittently since 2015.
Lynda Robinson, T. Anthony Pollner Professor, Fall 2023
Lynda Robinson is the local enterprise and projects editor at The Washington Post. She also created and oversees The Post’s history blog, Retropolis, and has edited four books by Post writers. Robinson was part of a team of journalists who won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for coverage of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
She edited a series of stories on sex trafficking by Jessica Contrera that won the 2022 Anthony Shadid Award for Journalism Ethics. In 2020 and 2021, she edited stories by Ian Shapira about racism, sexual assault and waterboarding at Virginia Military Institute that won a George Polk Award, Columbia University's Paul Tobenkin Award and the Education Writers Association Hechinger Grand Prize.
In 2017, she worked on a series about children and gun violence by John Woodrow Cox that was a Pulitzer finalist for feature writing and won awards from Scripps Howard, the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, Columbia Journalism School and the Education Writers Association. In 2014, she was part of the team that worked on The Post’s coverage of the Navy Yard shooting, which was a Pulitzer finalist for breaking news. Robinson has edited four books, including "Children Under Fire: An American Crisis" and “Space Barons: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and the Quest to Colonize the Cosmos.” She previously worked at The Washington Post Magazine, Capital Style magazine, Baltimore Sun, Roll Call and Bucks County Courier Times.
She earned her BA from Penn State University in history and political science and an MA in public affairs journalism from American University.
Office: COR 153
Phone: (406) 243-4640
Adjunct Professor John Twiggs began teaching at the University of Montana in 1994 and joined Montana PBS in 1996. Twiggs is currently the television producer at Montana PBS and prior to was a sports reporter/anchor for eight years throughout Indiana, Montana and New Mexico. Twiggs graduated from Eastern New Mexico University with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast communications and earned his master’s degree in journalism from the University of Montana.
His expertise lies in producing a variety of television programs from historical documentaries to political programs and children’s education shows. Which involves research, writing, photography, editing and post-production to get the program distributed to the public. The programs have earned national awards such as CINE Golden Eagle, Parents Choice Foundation and also received six regional Emmy awards.
Phone: (406) 243-4401
Mary is a journalist and teacher living in Missoula. She has written and created radio stories for outlets across Montana and Alaska.
She currently reports on the environment and Indigenous affairs for KUAC-FM in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Before becoming a journalist, she worked as a preschool teacher, environmental educator, and farmer.
She has a bachelor's degree in English from SUNY Geneseo and a master's degree in journalism from UM.
Phone: (406) 243-2567
Cogswell is the Director of Development for the School of Journalism and the College of Arts and Media. She has been with the University of Montana Foundation for three years, most recently, as the Director of Development for the Davidson Honors College. Prior to that, Cogswell served in leadership roles for several Missoula non-profits, including as executive director for Youth Homes, Inc., a child welfare organization. Before that, Cogswell was associate director for Five Valleys Land Trust, a conservation organization operating throughout western Montana. Cogswell hold a B.A. in English Literature from the College of Idaho and a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Montana. She and her husband Rick live in Missoula and have two sons.
Kathleen Whetzel joined the School of Journalism staff in January 2003. Her background includes legal secretarial work in Spokane and Missoula for over 16 years. Additionally, she was the Assistant Clerk for the Arlee School District for 2 1/2 years.
Whetzel graduated from the University of Montana with a bachelor’s degree from the School of Business and earned her Master's in Public Administration at UM in 2016.
Whetzel and her husband Matt have two adult sons and have resided north of Arlee for over 30 years. She enjoys running and bike riding throughout the area.
Robyn Berg, Program Coordinator II, Office Manager
Robyn Berg joined the School of Journalism staff in February 2023. Her background includes being the Assistant to the Chair, Admin IV, Office Manager and Advisor in the Computer Science department at UM for 12 years and being a Student Advisor for Computer Science, Mathematics, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Physics, and Pre-Engineering for 5 years. Additionally, she lived and worked in Europe for 10 years before moving to Montana.
Robyn graduated from the University of Montana with a bachelor’s degree from the School of Business in Financial Management.
Robyn and her partner Allen enjoy traveling and photography and the natural beauty of Montana. You will often find them at a local ghost town.