Paul Jensen loves helping people reach success.
Since joining the University of Iowa as the journalism school’s internship placement coordinator last year, Jensen has helped many students obtain interviews, internships, and jobs.
Formerly the director of photography at the Gazette, Jensen takes the utmost pride in seeing his aid positively impact the lives of many. While Jensen connects the dots between the professional world and the academic one, he pushes his students to seek out all future possibilities.
The Cedar Rapids native recently sat down with fyi to reminisce on his past with the Gazette, his beloved hobbies, and the joy he gets from discussing students’ future professional goals.
How did you begin shooting pictures?
My dad took all the family photos and that always intrigued me. That stuck in the back of my mind a bit, but I think junior high school is when I really became involved in the trade. The head of the audio-visual club got me really interested in photography by having me run the projectors. Concurrently, I discovered I could make money by shooting the team pictures of the local high school and junior high school teams. I had a couple of schools that came to me—they were like my clients. I would then sell them back the prints, consequently making money.
A few of my favorite things…
The book All the President’s Men
Once I reached high school, my interest in photography became solidified thanks to the guidance of my journalism instructor. I had many adventures for the newspaper and the yearbook those four years. All these experiences led to me receiving a paycheck from the Gazette for 34 years.
Your most memorable experience at the Gazette?
My best memories involve seeing others succeed. I hired some really good staff photojournalists and put together a team that covered the flood in 2008 really well. Although water was wrecking havoc on the city, we continued to churn out telling images for the Gazette’s print and online formats. The photos we printed depicted the waters as they moved through Waterloo, Vinton, and Cedar Rapids, all the way down the Iowa River into the Iowa City/Coralville area. We had so many images; we ended up compiling an art exhibit that opened at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. More than 23,000 attended the exhibit during its five-month run. I’m very proud of what we did, and I’m proud of the accomplishments of the people I’ve hired.
What was the appeal of working at the University?
The Gazette and I were both evolving and it lead to both of us parting ways. I became the J-school’s intern placement coordinator after acting on an ad I saw one morning. It has been one of my greatest decisions, as this job is so rewarding. The constant question of “What we are going to do tomorrow?” is repeated daily on this job, and living for the unknown future thrills me.
What does the role of the intern placement coordinator consist of on a daily basis?
I help students pursue careers and internships, giving them a professional’s view of their résumé and presentation. Trying to tap into students’ daily curiosities during every meeting, I take their wonders about their professional future and transform those interests into action. I act as a member of their team, look at where they’re looking, and help them better prepare. The goal is to make them the best candidate. Don’t leave any crayons in the box that may make one’s professional picture better. Networking is paramount today in becoming a professional and I help them maintain their connections. I can’t find it all for them. What I can do is help bridge the connection between getting a degree and receiving an interview.
What is your favorite hobby others may not know you love?
I have three loves. During a normal weekend where I’m staying in Iowa, I like to snowshoe and cross-country ski. My wife and I do a lot of these things up in Linn County and near the Macbride Nature Area. These areas remind me slightly of a Colorado mountain, which I enjoy. This makes winter go much faster.
When I leave Iowa, I love to snorkel. I’ve swam in Bonaire, Aruba, Grand Turk, Maui, Kauai, Cancun, and Cozumel. I love snorkeling because it is a whole different world under there. A very quiet world, but in the right light it is so beautiful. Last year I swam over an underwater housing of coral and immediately took as many photos as possible. When you look from above the water, it is peaceful, but when you dive in, you see beautiful chaos as the coral and the fish mosey on by.
What is the one word that describes you best?
I think an Iowan. It is a word of curiosity, integrity, and respect. That’s what I try to represent daily.