Effective July 1, 2023, Deanna Shoemaker, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Communication and Performance Studies, will succeed Aaron Furgason, Ph.D., Associate Professor for the Department of Communication, as chair of the department.
Shoemaker will be the first woman chair of the department since its founding. She said, “As I step into the Communication chair position in July, I hope we can strengthen our faculty relationships post-pandemic, celebrate the outstanding work of our students and faculty, and encourage humane, equitable, and sustainable ways of working during a difficult time in higher education. I am committed to more collaborative and community-engaged teaching and learning, as well as interdisciplinary partnerships.”
Faculty from the Department of Communication weighed in on a chair’s responsibilities, Furgason’s tenure, and what to expect from this transition of leadership.
Dickie Cox, MFA, Associate Professor for the Department of Communication, began, “Chairing a department is a supreme act of service. Dr. Furgason served as chair of the department during a shambolic time in the University’s history.”
Over the course of Furgason’s time as chair, the University has seen three different presidents, provosts, and school deans, not to mention the need to navigate a global pandemic.
“Transitioning between different administrations can be difficult during normal times as communication structures and reporting usual shift during these transitions and create additional stresses for campus stakeholders. However, a rollout of 128 credits to 120 credits campus-wide curriculum change and a global pandemic that fundamentally changed how we taught and learned occurred during an overlapping time, further complicating the contextual backdrop,” continued Cox.
Furgason concurred, “Any chair that has served during this time frame has certainly had a unique experience in serving the role.”
“What he accomplished in keeping the Department on track and functioning professionally during the pandemic was monumental. When faced with that enormous challenge, Dr. Furgason never flinched. His work over that period, as well as before and after the pandemic, was tireless and passionate. I know of no one more dedicated to the success of the Department than Dr. Furgason,” gushed John Morano, MA, Professor for the Department of Communication.
Department chairs are oftentimes conduits for different kinds of conversations, including student-to-faculty, faculty-to faculty, administration-to-student, student-to-administration, administration-to-faculty, and faculty-to-administration.
Using the curriculum change as an example, Furgason said, “Updating the communication curriculum was a process that the faculty spent significant time and energy on as a major accomplishment. While the changes are now in the administrative approval process and hopefully will be available to students soon. The curriculum is forward-thinking and offers students a top-notch education with skills to succeed in the communication field.”
Cox elaborated, “Chairs lead by helping the department faculty to set and maintain an overall department vision, agenda, and plan; setting the yearly course offerings within the department; addressing student concerns in a timely fashion; and helping the department respond to new administrative policies and procedures by liaising to the campus administration structures.”
Under Furgason’s term, the department’s Interactive Digital Media (IDM) lab was constructed in JP 135. Moreover, with the help of Cox and Amanda Stojanov, MFA, Assistant Professor of Digital Media, the Media Studies and Production cluster has new digital courses that advance the curriculum.
“[Furgason’s] vision to move the Department more firmly into the world of digital communication underscores his drive to stay current. He has served the Department quite well, to say the least,” added Morano.
Furgason remarked, “I would expect that Chair-elect Professor Shoemaker will continue to move the department forward with new curriculum offerings in the field of film and champion to administrators the approval of the aforementioned curriculum changes as they move through the academic approval process.”
As a graduate faculty member, Cox has first-handedly observed Shoemaker’s leadership. He explained, “Dr. Shoemaker is also a strong advocate for students and a thoughtful and dynamic facilitator… I believe she will be successful as a chair.”
According to Mary Harris, MA, APR, Specialist Professor and Journalism/PR Program Director for the Department of Communication, Furgason’s navigation of the challenges faced is a testament to his dedication. “Dr. Furgason consistently made himself available to support students and faculty throughout his term as Chair… I am grateful for Dr. Furgason’s dedication service to the Department of Communication, and I equally look forward to working with Dr. Shoemaker as she enters her new role.”
“In my experience, the best chairs are wonderful listeners who have vision and are advocates for faculty and students alike. They understand the needs of these two groups, as well as possess a solid sense of what is likely good for the greater university community and can present those ideas to administrators in a way that represents everyone’s best interests fairly and sincerely. I believe I have just described Dr. Shoemaker to a tee. So, I have no doubt that she will flourish in the role as Chair of the Communication Department and I look forward to working closely with her,” closed Morano.