The final three candidates for dean of the Ithaca College Roy H. Park School of Communications, who participated in Zoom sessions to interact with the college community, are still being considered for the position even though the search has been postponed.
Both dean searches for the Park School and School of Music were postponed until October because of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on enrollment and finances at the college. In the meantime, interim deans will fill the positions. Neither school has announced who will serve as the interim deans.
The final candidates are Anne Nicotera, professor and chair of the Department of Communication at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, who presented March 18; Naeemah Clark, professor and assessment coordinator in the School of Communications at Elon University in Elon, North Carolina, who presented March 19; and Amy Falkner, interim dean of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in Syracuse, New York, who presented March 24. Approximately 70 students, faculty and staff attended each session.
During the question-and-answer Zoom sessions, community members asked questions about the candidates’ experiences with leadership, curriculum reviews, recruiting and retaining students and faculty of color, microaggressions, fundraising, faculty and administrative conflict and student media.
Ithaca College is currently facing a decrease in enrollment and missed its target enrollment for the Class of 2023. Additionally, the global COVID-19 pandemic is causing some to worry about the enrollment of the incoming freshman class. The candidates were asked about their leadership styles and what they believe the roles of a dean and the media are during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Falkner said she believes that outsourcing alumni and other nontraditional campus community members to help to recruit prospective students is critical for the fall semester.
“I am more of a glass–half-full girl,” she said. “It’s an opportunity for the school to think about how we are going to grow and move forward and how can we use what is going on to explain to our prospective students how valuable education is at the Park School.”
Falkner has served as interim dean at the Newhouse School since April 2019 after the former dean, Lorraine Branham, died. Falkner has previous experience working as an acting dean and a senior associate dean in the Office of Academic Affairs at the Newhouse School. She also served as the chair of the advertising program at Syracuse University for two years.
Nicotera said she believes enrollment is a major issue that colleges are facing. She said she thinks Ithaca College can recruit prospective students by creating more collaborative programming among the schools.
“Park can position itself on campus in a way that draws students into the college who will major in something else but who see a benefit to being at a college where immediate school and media training is available to them whether they’re a music major or a biology major,” she said.
Clark also expressed her concerns about the challenge of decreasing enrollment that many colleges have been facing.
Clark has been a faculty member at Elon University since 2009. Previously, she taught at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee, and Kent State University in Kent, Ohio.
Clark said she feels it is important to emphasize ethics, history and writing in communications courses.
“I am finding that our students and my colleagues are not teaching the basics anymore,” Clark said. “We have cut history of media out of the curriculum in favor of more tech-driven courses. I think without that component, without really understanding where some of these ideas came from, it makes it very difficult for [students] to be excellent professionals.”
Similarly, Nicotera emphasized the importance of including media literacy in all students’ curriculums.
Clark said she has worked with central administration at Elon University to address larger campus issues. She said she served as a co-chair of the presidential task force for social climate and out-of-class engagement in which she was tasked with improving campus culture.
Bob Regan, director of professional and experiential learning in the Executive Masters in Communications Innovation program, who served as a member of the search committee, pre–submitted a question for Falkner asking about her leadership style.
Falkner said her leadership approach is to listen to her constituents.
“The only way to lead through change is through collaborating,” Falkner said. “You can’t be top-down and tell people, ‘We are going to do this.’ In my experience, it never works.”
All of the candidates were asked questions about diversity issues, like recruiting and retaining students and faculty of color and handling microaggressions in the classroom.
Rising sophomore Amulya Ankem asked Nicotera how she would support and provide resources to recruit and retain the students of color in the Park School.
Nicotera said she needs to speak with students to get feedback on their opinions and needs. She also said she thinks there need to be more diverse faculty members for students of color to have faculty of color mentors.
“We have to understand, as a community, that a diverse institution is a stronger institution than a nondiverse institution,” she said. “A diverse institution is about its culture and not about what the faces of its people look like.”
Clark, the only candidate who is a woman of color, said she will make diversity, equity and inclusion a priority.
“If you are not recruiting diverse faculty, recruiting diverse students and decolonizing our curriculum, we are not teaching our students to be excellent,” Clark said.
Clark also said that she had to address many bias incidents while at Elon University. She said that it is critical to give students the language to be comfortable talking about bias incidents when issues arise.
“If we build it, if we promote it, if we do it well, we’re going to recruit diverse students,” Clark said. “We’re going to recruit diverse faculty. And if an institution stands for something, diverse faculty will stay.”
Falkner said that she thinks it is critical for staff and faculty to take diversity training but that she also believes diversity needs to be incorporated in all academic programs throughout the semester.
“You can’t just build [a diverse community and culture] and hope people come, right?” she said. “You have to be active about it. … You create the culture. It doesn’t happen on its own.”
Steve Gordon, associate professor in the Department of Media Arts, Sciences and Studies and director of the television-radio program, asked Falkner about her approach to fundraising.
She said that she has the least experience in this realm but that she has learned about fundraising while serving as acting and interim dean at Syracuse University.
“It turns out that it’s not as hard if you have a great product to sell,” she said. “I think the Park School is in a perfect position to have a wonderful story to tell, and it’s just getting to the right people.”
Jack Bryant, assistant professor and program director of the Department of Media Arts, Sciences and Studies and one of the Park School Dean Search Committee’s co-chairs, said via email that he thinks that conducting the open sessions over Zoom went well. The sessions were originally scheduled to occur on campus, but, after the college transitioned to remote learning March 17, the sessions took place online.
“We had a high turnout, which was a concern due to everyone being away from campus and the technology being fairly new to a lot of us,” Bryant said. “We were also able to present, in a fairly orderly fashion, a lot of questions to the candidates which may not have been asked had the sessions taken place in person.”