Welcoming the New Department Chair: Robin Means Coleman

Project Humanities Launch WeekThursday night panel.Happy autumn! Fall is one of my favorite seasons, bringing with it colorful foliage, cooler temperatures perfect for outdoor activities, and tasty apple cider. Poet John Keats aptly described autumn as a season of “mellow fruitfulness.”

In Communication Studies, fall marks the beginning of a bustling academic year that is most certainly “fruitful,” but whose energy is far from “mellow.”

These are exciting times as we just completed an external review of our department. We are benefiting from a new, comprehensive department governance structure. More, we are enlivened as we continue to chart innovative scholarly and pedagogical routes. These intellectual pathways will enhance our already stellar reputation as globally recognized disciplinary leaders.

Our department is celebrating new faculty arrivals. I am absolutely thrilled to welcome three new faculty members to the department. Reighan Gillam, an Assistant Professor, joins us from the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, here at the University of Michigan, where she completed a research fellowship. Reighan’s research focuses on Afro-Brazilian racial politics in commercial television. She is completing a book on the development of a Black television network—TV de Gente—in Sāo Paulo, Brazil. Katherine Sender, a Full Professor, arrives from the University of Auckland in New Zealand bringing her expertise in gender, sexuality, and gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer representation. Her current research focuses on sex museums and transnational sexual mobilities. Brian Weeks, an Assistant Professor, comes to us after completing a research fellowship at the University of Vienna. His research focuses on political communication with particular attention to affect, misperceptions, misinformation, and rumor. He is concerned with how inaccurate political beliefs emerge.

Our ranks continue to grow as we also welcome one of our larger doctoral student cohorts. I extend greetings to Sedona Chinn, Stewart M. Coles, Dia Das, Ian Hawkins, Dan Hiaeshutter-Rice, Sage Lee, Sriram Mohan, and Emily Saidel. At the undergraduate level, we continue to be one of the most popular majors on campus. Our new Associate Chairs, Kris Harrison (undergraduate program) and Aswin Punathambekar (graduate program) are directing their respective programs with an eye toward advancing cutting-edge curricula, fostering diversity, and supporting students with their professional development goals.

Our halls will be teeming with visitors who will be joining us for several stimulating events. These events include, but are certainly not limited to:

• Fall Convocation (October 6) in which we welcome our new and returning majors.

• Global Media Studies Initiative (October 8-9). This inaugural symposium kicks off the formal establishment of the Initiative in the department. Guest speakers Wendy Willems (London School of Economics and Political Science) and Michael Curtin (UC Santa Barbara) will discuss where the field of global media is heading, as well as the globalization of media production.

• Entertainment Media Career Forum (November 13), which brings back alumni to provide career mentoring for our students.

• The Marsh Lecture (date TBD), presented by Louisa Lim, the Marsh Visiting Professor of Journalism. Lim is author of the award-winning book The People Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited.

• Colloquium (Thursdays, 4-5:30), in which we hear from a range of presenters about new scholarly inroads.

• And, of course, we are already looking ahead toward the Department’s Commencement (April 29, noon) where we celebrate our graduates and shake the rafters with cheers of “Go Blue!”

Finally, we are in the process of completing some welcome renovations. The 7th floor has been sound-proofed to support the inventive research being conducted in our various research labs. The graduate student lab is in the process of receiving a major overhaul, to include new paint and furniture. We look forward to an open house celebrating our graduate students’ recent achievements and showcasing the lab’s new look. Finally, the 5th floor will be brought to life with artwork, furniture, and other enhancements.

In short, Communication Studies is the place to be if you want an intellectually dynamic, far from mellow environment.