major graduating in 2005
from Wake Forest University with a history degree, David Copeland
worked for six months on archeological dig sites in historic Williamsburg,
Va. But when that job ended, a trip to the unemployment office put
Copeland, the A.J. Fletcher Professor of Communications, on an unlikely
career path that eventually led to Elon University.
into the unemployment office and said I wanted an exciting job,"
Copeland says. That request landed Copeland the position of sports
editor at the Daily Advance in Elizabeth City, N.C. Though he was
thrown into the position without much experience, Copeland says
he learned in a trial by fire. "I basically used what I had
been reading in newspapers for years and went from there,"
he says. "If you're learning as you go, you learn what to do
and what not to do by making mistakes."
A love of teaching
Copeland had been interested in teaching for years, and during his
three years at the paper, he covered school board meetings. That
re-ignited his desire, and he moved on to teach in North Carolina
public schools in Edenton and Camden for the next eight years.
wanted to do more," Copeland says. "I wanted to go back
to school and learn more." Copeland went on to graduate school,
earning a master's degree from Southeastern Baptist Theological
Seminary and a doctorate from the University of North Carolina at
ended up teaching at Emory & Henry College in Emory, Va. While there,
he attended various conferences where he occasionally ran into Brad
Hamm, associate dean of the School of Communications at Elon. At
these meetings, Hamm and Copeland often discussed the interesting
changes that were taking place in Elon's School of Communications.
Then, as Emory & Henry looked to upgrade their program, its faculty
looked at Elon as a model for their program. So when Hamm contacted
Copeland about a teaching position at Elon, Copeland already had
a good understanding of the department.
It was his
first visit to the campus, however, that convinced Copeland Elon
was the place for him. "I was just absolutely amazed by what
I saw, maybe even intimidated," Copeland says about seeing
Elon's beautiful campus and impressive facilities for the first
time. "It was a really good move for me."
He says he
realized Elon was a special place where the faculty and staff really
care about education. So, Copeland and his wife, Robin, and their
children, Hunter and Holley '03, moved back to North Carolina, and
he began teaching at Elon in 2001.
to teaching, Copeland manages to complete a staggering number of
research and editorial projects. He says he is able to fit everything
in with lots of time management, a skill he learned as he balanced
a job, an assistantship and spending time with his family while
in graduate school. "You have to set aside time," he says.
"I stick to a fairly strict schedule."
on his master's degree, Copeland discovered that he enjoys researching
early American journalism, religion and the media, and the history
of freedom of expression in America.
working with primary documents: pamphlets, books and letters to
editors from the 17th century," he says. He then began looking
at the colonial press and realized that some of the textbooks he
was using in his classes were not accurate according to the primary
documents he studied. This discovery prompted him to do more and
kind of like a possession telling me, 'You have to do this. You
have to do this,'" Copeland says. "I like reading old
newspapers. They're a great reflection of society, how it has been
shaped, grown and developed, especially over the past 150 years."
current projects include serving as editor for a book series titled"
The Media and War," for which he also wrote a book on the French
and Indian War and co-authored a book on the War of 1812. He is
co-authoring a media history textbook, and he and Anthony Hatcher,
associate professor of communications, just finished an introduction
to a communications textbook.
also preparing to start work on a book next year that will deal
with the origins of ideas for freedom of expression in 16th century
Europe and America before the revolution. He was recently honored
with the inaugural Elon University School of Communications Excellence
in Scholarship Award. To read more about it, click