American University unveils new disruptive leadership initiative for media innovators with $250,000 from Knight Foundation – Knight Foundation

American University unveils new disruptive leadership initiative for media innovators with $250,000 from Knight Foundation

Initiative will use game design and new approaches to innovation to reimagine media leadership

WASHINGTON, D.C— Oct. 10, 2014—  The American University School of Communication today announced that it will launch a program for disruptive leadership development in media and journalism with $250,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The collaboration, known as JoLT for Journalism Leadership Transformation, will expand on the university’s new Game Design and Persuasive Play Initiative, established in 2014 as a joint program of the School of Communication and the College of Arts and Sciences. The initiative includes a master’s program in game design, along with faculty work and research in persuasive play, and the American University Game Studio. It aims to train students focused on media innovation to apply lessons from game design and systems thinking— an approach that studies how one part of a system is connected to and can impact another. This information can then be used to influence user interests, activities or opinions.

The JoLT pilot will add a leadership component to the Game Design and Persuasive Play Initiative. JoLT will recruit six fellows, three full-time student fellows and three working media professionals, to participate in activities and projects designed to help them become transformational leaders, while learning about game design and design thinking, which places users at the center of the innovation process.  

Additionally, JoLT will bring together fellows and leading industry professionals to explore design thinking, rapid prototyping and journalism trends through two Washington, D.C.- based summits. The program will also organize a JoLT speaker series and workshop events around persuasive play, news games, transformational leadership, design and systems thinking.

“This collaboration with Knight Foundation could not come at a better time in terms of the transformation of journalism, the explosion of interest in game design thinking, and the creative research behind disruptive leadership,” said Jeffrey Rutenbeck, dean of the School of Communication. “As the complexity and pace of contemporary media and social transformation skyrockets, the worlds of journalism and media are sorely in need of transformational leaders who can lead, push, reorganize and restart efforts to inform and engage.”

“JoLT will help educators explore new ways to prepare students for 21st century community information demands, and at the same time provide media professionals the opportunity to transform their organizations into hubs for innovation,” said Marie Gilot, Knight Foundation program officer for journalism. “The aim is to create a new generation of leaders who will make a big impact on the media and information industry.”

“Game design is really about linking interesting problems, so it’s reasonable to believe that we can structure tasks and responsibilities to engage people toward specific problem-solving,” said Lindsay Grace, director, American University Game Lab.  “This could be as simple as mobilizing citizen journalists, or as complex as identifying journalistic areas that need to be covered and aren’t adequately.”

The three media professional fellows will take part while working to drive change within their organizations; they will help strengthen the ways in which these organizations engage and interact with their audiences.

The three full time student fellows will engage while in school. Candidates who are emerging leaders, familiar with new media digital innovations, and have a background or interest in media and/or journalism are encouraged to apply. Applications are being accepted immediately.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit

About American University

American University is a leader in global education, enrolling a diverse student body from throughout the United States and nearly 140 countries. Located in Washington, D.C., the university provides opportunities for academic excellence, public service, and internships in the nation’s capital and around the world.

The School of Communication at American University is among the nation’s top communication schools, with researchers, students and programs focusing on the intersection of media, technology and society.

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Tia Sumler Milledge, Senior Manager, Web & Marketing Communication, American University School of Communication, 202-885-3695, [email protected]

Anusha Alikhan, Director of Communications, Knight Foundation, 305-908-2677, [email protected]