Moving the Academic Needle at MSU: 28 New Faculty Join Communication Arts & Sciences

At a previous university, I called the university’s press officer with the exciting news that we had just hired a new chaired professor. She responded immediately, saying: “Bill. ‘University hires a new faculty member’ is not news.” Granted, that is indeed what we do.

But hiring twenty-eight to thirty new faculty – yes, 28-30, depending on whether some early hires are counted – is really news in my opinion. Certainly in my career. All are joining departments of the College of Communication Arts & Sciences at Michigan State University this Fall. This caps an incredible year of recruitment that is certain to move the College and its departments up the ranks of their respective fields.

And this is not simply a story about numbers. They are an amazingly diverse set of strong academics joining the College. I will list them below. But take just a few stellar examples of faculty joining my Department of Media and Information – major, senior faculty, who on their own terms will lift our department in stature and impact: Keith Hampton, Natascha Just, and David Ewoldsen.

Keith N. Hampton joined the Department of Media and Information from Rutgers University, where he was the Endowed Professor in Communication and Public Policy and Co-Chair of the Social Media & Society Cluster in the School of Communication and Information, and an affiliate member of the graduate faculty in the Department of Sociology. Keith received his Ph.D. and M.A. in sociology from the University of Toronto, and a B.A. in sociology from the University of Calgary. Before joining the faculty that Rutgers, he was an assistant professor at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, and Assistant Professor of Technology, Urban and Community Sociology & Class of ’43 Chair in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. From his doctoral thesis onward, he has done seminal work on the role of new communication technologies in shaping community.

Natascha Just, an economist, whose research centers on innovation-inducnatascha-just-new-verted media change, such as on changing governance structures, competition policy, market power control, algorithms and platforms in the communication sector. She will join us from the University of Zurich, Switzerland, where Mag. Dr. Natascha Just has been a Senior Research and Teaching Associate in the Division on Media Change & Innovation, Institute of Mass Communication and Media Research (IPMZ) at the University of Zurich. She holds a Ph.D. in Communication Science (2001) from the University of Vienna. She was the recipient of a three year Hertha Firnberg Grant from the Austrian National Science Fund and worked as Hertha Firnberg Scholar at the Department of Communication, University of Vienna, Austria (2005-2008). She has also held visiting appointments at a number of US institutions, including Stanford Law School (2007), the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Southern California (2004-2005), among other appointments.

David R. Ewoldsen joins the Department of Media and Information at MSU from The Ohio State University, where he was also a Professor in the School of Communication and Department of Psychology (courtesy appoint). He was serving as the Associate Director of the School of Communication and Director of Undergraduate Studies (since 2012). David received a joint Ph.D. in psycScreen Shot 2016-08-20 at 11.24.39hology and speech communication at Indiana University in 1990. After completing his Ph.D., he was a postdoctoral fellow in the cognitive sciences program at Vanderbilt University (1990-1991). He brings several research programs with him, including a long-standing program of research on ‘attitude accessibility’, for which he is clearly among the leading researchers. His work is focused primarily on the study of attitude and behavior change in the areas of health and race.

Also from OSU’s School of Communication, but joining the College’s Department of Advertising + Public Relations, is Associate Professor Nancy Rhodes. Nancy has a background in social psychology and is focused on health behavioral researchRhodes_Nancy-Photo1-938ef04ddea1266eeefd27af016d97e1-160x160, one of the College’s strategic areas for development. For example, she was the principal investigator on a recent large-scale ($700K plus) study of communication initiatives designed to reduce risky driving behavior.

Internationally, in addition to Professor Just, in the Department of Media and Information, as noted above, take Dr Tai-Quan (Winson) Peng, who has joined the Communication Department as an Associate Professor. I have frequently cited his work with Jonathan Zhu and others in the Web MininWinson_Peng_entryg Lab at the City University of Hong Kong, as being among the most insightful uses of data analytics to document the burgeoning growth of social science research on the Internet.

But please take a look at the full list (with apologies for anyone I’ve neglected to note):

Advertising and Public Relations

Bree Holtz coming from MSU; Nancy Rhodes coming from Ohio State University; Kjerstin Thorson coming from University of Southern California; Morgan Ellithorpe coming from University of Pennsylvania; Joseph Steinhardt coming from Cornell University; plus three Professors of Practice, focused on teaching roles, Ross Chowles, Louis Schiavone, and Gregory Taucher.

Department of Communication

Ralf Schmaelzle coming from University of Pennsylvania; Allison Eden coming from MSU; and Winson Peng coming from Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

Department of Journalism

Brendan Watson coming from University of Minnesota; Esther Thorson coming from University of Missouri; Rachel Mourao coming from University of Texas at Austin; and three Professors of Practice, Amy Haimerl, Michael Castellucci, and Richard Epps.

Department of Media & Information

Keith Hampton coming from Rutgers University; Natascha Just coming from University of Zurich, Switzerland; Elizabeth LaPensée coming from University of Minnesota; David Ewoldsen coming from Ohio State University; and four Professors of Practice, Jeremy Bond, John Valadez, Carleen Hsu, Ricardo Guimares.

Also, in the Quello Center, which is a center within the Department of Media and Information, our Post-Doctoral Fellow, Dr Bianca Reisdorf, has been recruited to stay at MSU as the Assistant Director of the Quello Center and an Assistant Professor in the Department. More on Professor Reisdorf and all of our faculty in due course.

So, this caps a very remarkable year for recruitment in MSU’s College of Communication Arts & Sciences. Thanks to Dean Prabu David and the leadership within the departments, the College was able to create an initiative to make a step jump in its faculty ranks. In academia, this must be one of those developments that promises to move the needle for the College and our field and in my opinion, be newsworthy!

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