The man behind it all

Furnas works behind the scenes to master the convention

Executive Director of national Journalism Education Association Kelly Furnas helps plan and schedule conventions for JEA. Furnas is also a professor at Kansas State University. Photo by Nicolette Boaz.

Executive Director of national Journalism Education Association Kelly Furnas helps plan and schedule conventions for JEA. Furnas is also a professor at Kansas State University. Photo by Nicolette Boaz.

 

LOS ANGELES – Walking up, staring into the bright spotlight on Thursday night, Kelly Furnas scanned around to see the thousands of people waiting anxiously in the audience. He cleared his throat, and with a deep breath, Furnas spoke out to each one of the kids and adults alike that he saw.

“Welcome to the 2016 JEA/NSPA Spring National high school Journalism convention.”

Furnas, the executive director of national Journalism Education Association, plans these national conventions along with NSPA, or National Scholastic Press Association, to co-host these events. For a certain convention, Furnas works on anything from contracting the hotel five years out to getting meals for all of the advisers to working with the audio and visuals.

Along with the work of coordinating the convention, Furnas travels to them as well. Although many journalism students may know him as the man who walks around with the microphone to give to students when asking a keynote speaker a question, Furnas puts many hours into each convention and works year-round with the journalism community. Along with the job of coordinating the conventions, Furnas has lots of work to do throughout the whole year.

Furnas is also a professor at Kansas State University where he teaches journalism courses. Including all of the work at the University, Furnas also works with JEA on non-convention work like writing journalism curriculum, certifying journalism teachers, publishing a journalism magazine and even keeping a book store. Basically, he does all stuff journalism.

Yet even though the job description for Furnas can be seem plentiful at times, yet his path to come to this job has shown his love for journalism even at a young age.

Both of Furnas’ parents were journalists when he was born, so he was exposed to the pen and paper from day one. He then, in high school, was on the newspaper staff and even attended this very convention as a high schooler. After that, Furnas went to Kansas State University and studied journalism, where he then graduated and wrote with newspapers in Tallahassee, Fla. and Las Vegas.

“Working with young people is the highlight of my day, it’s what gets me out of my bed.””

— Kelly Furnas

Yet even with being around journalism his entire life, Furnas’ next job was something he didn’t see this close in the future.

“When I was in college, I always knew that I wanted to teach journalism at some point, but I thought that was going to be at the end of my career,” Furnas said. “I thought that I would have been in journalism for 30 years and then just fall back on teaching. But when the job offer from Virginia Tech opened up to advise the newspaper, yearbook, TV station and magazine, I knew that was going to be an opportunity that I would beat myself up if I didn’t do it. I thought I may as well apply even though I thought I had no shot to get it, and I ended up lucking out and falling in love with teaching young people and I knew that was what I was going to do for the rest of my life.”

As a teacher and being directly involved with the journalism students at the conventions, Furnas sees thousands of faces on a daily basis. Yet with the students he sees, there is a certain joy that he receives.

“I’d like to think that teachers are a special breed,” Furnas said. “The recognition of their students are more important than the accomplishments we get ourselves. We try to reward the teachers as much as we can, but even then you will see them so much more pleased when their students are getting awards and even just learning stuff. And I get to see that thousands and thousands of times per a day with JEA and my own students. Just when students get it and go off and do great things is so much more rewarding than anything I could ever do.”

Dealing with all the hours of planning not only for this convention but lessons for his classes at Kansas State and all the work he puts into his job, it would seem like it would be pretty exhaustive for Furnas. Yet Furnas finds his motivation that keeps him going each and every day.

“Other than a professional baseball player, it’s absolutely my dream job,” Furnas said. “Working with young people is the highlight of my day, it’s what gets me out of my bed. I cannot imagine a day going by where that’s not my motivation, I’m as happy as I can be.”

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