Loyola University Chicago

School of Communication


The Power of Continuous Learning: Hosting the IRE Bootcamp with Professor Brown


According to educator, author, and management consultant Peter Drucker, "The productivity of people requires continuous learning." The School of Communication's (SOC) Senior Professional in Residence, Jessica Brown, will spearhead such learning this summer as she hosts the Investigative Reporters and Editors' (IRE) Data Journalism Bootcamp this July from the 25th through the 29th. This engaging Bootcamp will provide journalists and editors with keystone data management and analytics skills. From navigating spreadsheets to SQL, the training is designed to equip communicators with the latest tools to ethically manage and analyze millions of records.  

Although Professor Brown will be hosting this year's session with IRE at Loyola, her relationship with the phenomenal grassroots nonprofit started years ago. "I joined IRE around 2017 or 2018," Brown said during a recent interview. "I was looking for professional development opportunities with training and networking, which [is not] always so easy for someone [who is] introverted. IRE had both; killed two birds with one stone." Since being founded in 1975, the IRE remains committed to improving investigative reporting. The organization uses a mix of conferences and training opportunities for individuals to foster community, sharing their acquired experiences and prowess to sharpen the creative excellence of their peers.  

This year Brown is particularly excited about the opportunity for visual journalists like herself to perfect how they govern and ethically regulate the wealth of data in their professional lives. "Visual journalists' job is to help the average person interpret data... [by using the] data to paint [a] picture of what's happening. It's a lot of data! They [are tasked with creating visuals like] interactive maps that allow you to see what is happening [according to] the data in a way people can readily and easily understand." It is challenging for the average individual to weed through several spreadsheets full of numbers, places, names, and stats. To read the bivariable analysis and outcomes or accurately interpret what those outcomes mean concerning their lives, our society, or the trajectory of our modern-day world. However, visual journalists provide the public with different entry points into the news; as Brown says, "they make it sexy."  

Continuously learning about the latest resources and techniques for handling vast assortments of critical data in gatherings like the one that will be hosted by Brown is a matter of technical skill and mindful compassion and care. Echoing the Jesuit value of cura personalis, a need exists for journalists to "care for the whole person" by weighing how to tell a story, to access and interpret data without losing sight of the human beings who read or are involved in these stories. "[There is] a lot of trauma to these stories; how do we care for people while telling their story? How do we care for ourselves while being repeatedly exposed to that? We aim to teach these things here at Loyola [Chicago's School of Communication]; care for the whole person."  

From our students and faculty to our alumni and partners, there is no doubting the value SOC places on collaboration and continuous learning. Relationships like that of Brown and Investigative Reporters and Editors fuel the ongoing, innovative learning culture that propels "The Called" to change the world through service. Please consider partnering with us in fostering a community of learners that promotes critical thinking and innovative storytelling. Contact Heba Madi at hmadi@luc.edu, or visit the Office of Advancement for more information.