Judy Polumbaum, Ph.D.

Professor Emeritus

What is Judy's story?

Polumbaum joined the Iowa faculty in 1989 and became professor emerita as of July 1, 2015. As one of the first Western scholars to focus on journalism and media in mainland China, she produced a steady stream of academic journal articles and book chapters as well as many articles for general audiences. Now relocated to the southwest, she continues to write and publish on many subjects. Her forthcoming book All Available Light: The Life and Legacy of Photographer Ted Polumbaum (McFarland Press, fall 2021) relates the story of her social activist photojournalist goofy Greatest Generation dad, who raised her on chemical fumes in a wet darkroom. In her previous book, Juxtapositions: Images from the NEWSEUM Ted Polumbaum photo collection (Gao House Press, 2016), she introduced a selection of works from his vast photo legacy. Ted’s archives constitute the largest single collection by an individual photographer in the custody of the Newseum (which continues to operate online programs and traveling exhibitions since closing its large DC museum at the end of 2019).

            Judy’s earlier work includes the book China Ink: The Changing Face of Chinese Journalism (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008), based on interviews with 20 young Chinese journalists. She earned her bachelor’s degree in East Asian studies from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, a master’s from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and a doctorate in communication from Stanford University. At Iowa, Judy was affiliated with the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies, International Programs, the Honors Program, and numerous other international and interdisciplinary programs. She taught a wide spectrum of subjects, from basic reporting to visual communication, international media, and teaching and research seminars. During her phased retirement, she spent two semesters as a visiting professor at City University of Hong Kong; back at Iowa, she organized a campus conference addressing problems faced by international undergraduate students and curated an exhibition of the work of a major Chinese photographer. She has worked for news organizations in Vermont, California, Oregon, Iowa, and Beijing, China, and was a founding board member of the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism (IowaWatch.org). She continues to freelance, and remains an unrepentant shoe-leather reporter. She marvels at how well her two California-born Iowa-bred Chinese-American sons – one a jazz musician, the other an emergency physician – have turned out. She also has two canine comedienne daughters, Beagle littermates rescued from murky Chicago origins.

Judy Polumbaum
Ph.D., Stanford University, 1989