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New academic leaders help guide Emerson transition

Posted by Roy Greene  November 2, 2012 01:46 PM

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Not only has Emerson College recently added three new vice presidents and an associate vice president, the college also appointed a new acting dean and several new and acting chairs to help guide the college’s transition toward its goal to be an international leader in the communications and the arts. This is Part II of a two-part series introducing the college’s new leaders in administration and academic affairs. (Read Part I here.)

PHILLIP GLENN, interim dean of the School of Communication

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Glenn took over as interim dean of the School of Communication in July after 11 years at Emerson as a faculty member and department chair. In his new role, Glenn oversees four departments: Communication Sciences and Disorders, Communication Studies, Journalism, and Marketing Communication. Glenn received his doctorate from the University of Texas, Austin, in interpersonal and organizational communication in 1987. His book Laughter in Interaction received the Outstanding Scholarly Publication Award from the Language and Social Interaction Division of the National Communication Association.

WHY EMERSON? “It’s very exciting because we are in a time of tremendous change in the world of communication,” says Glenn. “New media and technology are revolutionizing the way we communicate so each industry is changing.”

KEY ROLE: Glenn says he considers it his job is to help ensure Emerson’s communication students continue to “give voice to those who don’t have it, even in the midst of these changing environments.”

GOALS FOR THE YEAR AHEAD: “I hope to see the college realize its potential as the top communication college in the country,” says Glenn. “It’s part of the president’s, the board of trustees, and my own vision for the college that this happen, so that’s what we’re really working toward.”

JERALD WALKER, chair of the Department of Writing, Literature, and Publishing

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Jerald Walker, 48, begins his role as department chair after serving last year as interim chair. Walker received his doctorate from the University of Iowa in Interdisciplinary Studies, combining the fields of African American literature and history with creative writing. Prior to arriving at Emerson he was an associate professor of English at Bridgewater State University.

WHY EMERSON? Walker says he was inspired to consider administration by the arrival of President Lee Pelton. So far he says the president has had “no shortage of ideas of change for the better.”

KEY ROLE: In the past six years, the department has had five different chairs, Walker notes. He says he hopes to bring it stability. “This position is a fantastic opportunity to improve the lives of my colleagues, Emerson’s students, and the program itself,” he says.

GOALS FOR THE YEAR AHEAD: As interim chair, Walker and department faculty overhauled curricula for both Emerson’s publishing and creative writing masters programs. The changes are expected to go into effect next year. This year, Walker says he is focusing on getting those programs better funding to ensure they are “among the most competitive in the country.”

PAUL NIWA, interim chair of the Department of Journalism

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Niwa, 41, holds a master’s degree from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Before coming to Emerson, he launched NBC Asia Evening News in Hong Kong and helped Create NBC’s “Early Today. He also has produced CNBC’s “Today’s Business” and the nationally syndicated newscast, “This Morning’s Business.” He serves on the board of the US-Japan Council, Pacific Citizen Newspaper and the AAJA New England Chapter.

WHY EMERSON: "I decided to take a year off from the newsroom [in 2001] to rest, de-tox, do something new and refresh my mind and I ended up loving it. What kept me here initially and surprised me is the dedication of the students."

KEY ROLE: "I consider students -- current and alumni -- to have a stronger stake in the program than faculty do. I want our student body to be actively involved with the quality of the program."

GOALS FOR THE YEAR AHEAD: "I want to reach out to alumni and increase communication between faculty and students. I also want to recruit students to be a part of sending the message out that journalism at Emerson is vibrant, active, forward thinking and innovative."

W. WYATT OSWALD, interim chair of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders

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Oswald, 40, joined was named Emerson’s interim chair of communication sciences this year, his seventh on the faculty. Oswald earned his doctorate in ecology at The University of Washington. Before coming to Emerson, he was a researcher of forest ecology at the Harvard Forest located in Central Massachusetts. He continues to serve as an Associate Editor for the Quaternary Research, an academic journal. Oswald was awarded the Helaine and Stanley Miller Award for Outstanding Teaching in 2010.

WHY EMERSON: Oswald didn’t know much about Emerson when he first saw the job opening years ago but he was immediately intrigued by how specialized the college is. “I have felt very supported by my colleagues and so, in part, I saw this position as a chance to give back to the department and support colleagues back,” says Oswald.

KEY ROLE: Oswald says his role as interim chair is “to support my colleagues and advocate for the programs that make up my department.”

GOALS FOR THE YEAR AHEAD: “It’s fairly modest but in this department we have very strong graduate programs in communication disorders and health communications,” says Wyatt. “So my goal is to keep them on the good trajectory they're on. This is a transition period so we’re trying to be somewhat responsive to what happens over the next few years.”

JOHN ANDERSON, interim chair of Communication Studies

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Anderson, 58, took over the position this fall after more than 20 years on the Emerson faculty. He came to Emerson in 1989 from St. Lawrence College in upstate New York. Anderson earned his doctorate at the University of Texas at Austin. His work focuses on narrative theory and performance, and he is nationally recognized for his one-man performances of American authors. He authored The Student Companion to William Faulkner in 2007.

WHY EMERSON:"I was excited when I saw the job opportunity because my dissertation director at Austin had written his dissertation on the expression movement in Boston, so I jumped at the chance to apply,” Anderson says.

KEY ROLE: “I'm trying to keep the department on track to continue revising the curriculum.”

GOALS FOR THE YEAR AHEAD: Anderson says he’s mindful that his position is temporary. His foremost goal, he says, “to create a congenial culture of faculty and students

BROOKE KNIGHT, faculty assistant to the president


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In this new part-time role, Knight, 46, is helping to ease President Pelton’s transition into Emerson. Knight took over the temporary position in January to, in his words, “bridge the gap” between faculty and the president. Knight, who before taking the position served two years as chair of Faculty Council, is in his 11th year at Emerson as an associate professor in the Department of Visual and Media Arts. His specialty is interactive media. Knight received his MFA in photography from the California Institute of the Arts in 1995 and his artwork has been shown in nearly 50 exhibitions and festivals across the globe.

WHY EMERSON: “Emerson “has a great base, great facilities, and a clear direction for success, which also makes it a great place to work.”

KEY ROLE: “I’m here to help the president get a feel for faculty culture, figure out the best processes to enact the changes he wants, and give him a platform to hear the faculty’s suggestions,” says Knight. He praises President Pelton’s “deliberative” style as what leads him to work collaboratively with not only full-time faculty, but also adjunct and part-time faculty.

GOALS FOR THE YEAR AHEAD: “Any time you deal with a change in leadership there’s always an adjustment period,” says Knight. But he says he’s here to “let the president cooperate as much as possible with faculty to help them do their job.”

This story was produced under a partnership between Emerson College and the Globe.

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