Q&A with Liz Mathis (BA ’80)

Issue: 

Liz Mathis (BA '80), currently an Iowa State Senator, Community Engagement Director at Four Oaks, and SJMC Professional Advisory Board Member, gives her vision for the school. She previously worked as a news anchor at KWWL-TV and KGAN-TV.

Liz Mathis

Tell us about your career in journalism.

I worked for KWWL-TV for 16 years, starting in Cedar Rapids as a “one-man band,” where I shot and did all of the work on my own. From there, I was promoted to the main station in Waterloo, where I became the first female co-anchor of the evening news. I also worked for KCRG-TV for 10 years.

What is one highlight of your career?

I wouldn’t want to limit myself to just one highlight. With Iowa City being a writer’s paradise, I’ve had the opportunity to interview many popular writers that the University of Iowa has produced as well as all presidential candidates from Reagan to Obama. On top of that, covering many natural disasters that occur throughout the Midwest and telling the stories of the people experiencing them as well as their resilience. 

"My professors preached the necessity to synthesize information in efficient ways. This carries over well into the political realm because you need to take what your constituents are telling you and translate [it] to back a certain policy."

How has the SJMC aided your career as a politician?

It’s helped me to communicate in a clear and concise way as well as being better at resourcing. My professors preached about the necessity to synthesize and translate information in efficient ways. This carries over well into the political realm because you need to take what your constituents are telling you and translate that information in a way that makes your fellow legislators want to back a certain policy. Adding to that where we learned how to find information because being able to know where to go to make an idea cohesive is an important skill to have.

What makes the SJMC standout?

One of the SJMC’s biggest strengths is certainly its professors. James Wallert, who recently passed away, was realistic. He wouldn’t say, “Once you know all of this, you’re going to get a TV job.” Instead, he’d say, “Once you hone this writing style, you’ll have one of the skills you’ll need to pursue a job in broadcast news.” In conjunction with the excellent professors here, having the hands-on experience at Daily Iowan TV and The Daily Iowan rounds the wonderful education a student can receive at the SJMC. 

Liz Mathis

How does the SJMC help students looking to start or further their career?

The SJMC provides many wonderful opportunities students, such as the Fulbright Program that helps students study abroad, the Internship Program that helps students obtain real-world job experiences, having lunches and lectures with visiting professionals, and funding opportunities should students wish to start their own publications.

What is your vision for the SJMC in the coming years?

That the school continues on its mission in teaching students the skills conducive to good writing as well as having a good understanding of what the First Amendment is about. Career building opportunities and how we use various forms of technology are always changing, but the foundation for good writing skills stays the same.