Q & A with Professional Advisory Board Member Jeff Grisamore, President & CEO EGR International/BlackLab Media


Jeff GrisamoreWhy are you involved with SJMC?

When I was a student at Iowa, I minored in journalism and mass communication and I did my honors work in the school. I was incredibly impressed with the open exchange of ideas and the safe, honoring process my instructors took to ensure that we worked towards getting at the truth of an idea or a story. In my entire collegiate career, I had not been exposed to such a degree of openness and intellectual camaraderie. It stuck with me.  When David Ryfe asked me to serve on the board last year, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

Tell us about your organization, EGR International.

We help our clients connect with their key customers in ways that drive higher levels of partnership and have more long-term perspective. We’re a new type of ad agency; instead of creating ads, we create relationships that customers are unwilling to walk away from. The field of engagement is highly fluid and requires new types of communication strategies, similar to those employed by companies such as Apple and Google. 

You worked with UI professor emeritus Hanno Hardt for your SJMC honors work. How did this experience influence your success?

I gained the ability to think expansively and to rely on my instincts, as well as collaborations with others to draw new conclusions. Our small group had tremendous flexibility to think, create, ideate, and discover, all techniques I use today in my personal and professional life.

What sets SJMC apart from other schools?

I’m impressed with the robust, changing curriculum that is reflective of not only modern thinking, but also societal change. The school’s ability to stay contemporary is remarkable. A tremendous amount of credit goes to David Ryfe and the staff and faculty to stay on the leading-edge of communications and journalistic approach. I am very proud of the direction they are headed, which is recognized in a 97 percent student placement rate within six months of graduation.

What would you say to young professionals breaking into the journalism industry?

Since I am not a journalist, I would revise this to say…“future professionals breaking into the information industry.”  My response would be to absorb all forms of information and communication with an emphasis on digital. Become an expert in not only those mediums, but how they are transmitted. Businesses today need young talent that is agile, capable, intuitive, and questioning. These are all traits that can be found at the SJMC.

What is your vision for the SJMC?

My overall theme is for students to have confidence in themselves and to approach the new economy as a blank canvas onto which they can write their stories. The world needs people who can help us make sense of nonsense, to break through the confusing narratives and discover untold truths that can then become our collective future roadmap. There has never been a more opportune time to be a journalism student.

Professional Advisory Board

Ken Aagaard

CBS Sports

John Altenbern

CJ & N

Craig Bryan

Univ. of St. Thomas

Dean A. Buresh

Slipstream Comm.

William Casey

The Daily Iowan, retired

David Chivers

Register Media

Malcolm Christie

United Negro College Fund

Phil Currie

Gannett Co. Inc., retired

Jeff Grisamore

BlackLab Media

Peter Gross

Univ of Tennessee

Jim Heininger

Dixon|James Comm.

Jack Hirschfield


Maudlyne Ihejirika

Chicago Sun-Times

Barry Jackson

Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP

Pete Jeffries

AARP Campaigns & Gov Affairs

Alan Kotok

Science & Enterprise

Zack Kucharski

The Gazette

Les Landes

Landes & Associates

Steve Levigne

McDonald's Corp.

Jeff Liebermann

University of Iowa Foundation

Lynn Manternach

MindFire Comm.

Liz Mathis

Iowa State Senator

Troy Melhus

Saint Paul Public Schools

Mike Owen

Iowa Policy Project

Susan M. Shullaw

Shullaw & Associates

Tim Westerbeck

Eduvantis, LLC

Nick Westergaard

 Westergaard Media

Tom Yunt

United Communications Corporation

Kevin Zoeller

Zoeller Media