Letter From the Chair

Within the past few years, the face of the department has changed significantly. Young, untenured faculty now outnumber tenured faculty. Our three newest faculty members Drs. Cassandra Carlson, Bethany Conway and Megan Lambertz-Berndt are featured in articles in this newsletter.

Dr. Bernard Duffy

We’ve said some good-byes, too. Dr. Julia Woolley, a tenure-track assistant professor, moved to Eugene, Oregon. Her husband, Nick, plans on enrolling in a doctoral program in higher education. While at Cal Poly, Dr. Woolley and Dr. Mary Glick, Chair of the Journalism Department, created a new general education course, Media, Self, and Society. Next year the department will search for a specialist in digital communication who can also teach several of the classes that Dr. Woolley taught.

Dr. Michael Fahs retired after 35 years at Cal Poly, following his wife, Sue Brock, who retired from the department in 2015. Dr. James Conway, a former department chair, finished the faculty early retirement program and is now in full retirement. Sadly, Professor Keith Nielsen who had taught in the department for more than three decades and retired in 1991, passed away last year at age 89. For many years Dr. Nielsen and his wife, Lonna, have provided two scholarships for Communication Studies students.

Department students garnered two College of Liberal awards and were recognized at the spring commencement ceremony. Euni Kim received the College of Liberal Arts' Senior Recognition Award for Contributions to the Objectives and Public Image of the College and Danielle Berton received the College of Liberal Arts' Senior Recognition Award for Contributions to the Objectives and Public Image of the University. Our debaters competed nationally and internationally, and in the British Parliamentary final competition were recognized as being among the ten best teams (see Debate Highlights).

The department has long been known for excellence in teaching. This year, Dr. Richard Besel won the College of Liberal Arts Richard K. Simon Award for Excellence in Teaching and Christopher Skiles was selected by the CLA Club Council as its outstanding professor. Students in the department honored Dr. Jnan Blau as the outstanding educator in major classes, and Dr. Christine Shea was chosen by a faculty committee as the outstanding educator in general education classes. The faculty are further enhancing the visibility of the department nationally by publishing articles in the premier journals in the discipline and books with major university presses (see Other Faculty Updates).

In part because of our curriculum, including a successful internship and Co-op program, our students have had great success in landing jobs after graduation, and our student stories illustrate how some recent graduates have been able to make that leap. Our students successfully enter careers that use their academic background and personal talents, as the department’s LinkedIn page documents. Among the many accomplishments of alumni this year, we learned that David Feder (’11), who graduated from Cal Poly summa cum laude, graduated first in his class from Harvard Law School.

The department is, by a hair, the second most selective major in the College of Liberal Arts with more than 1,200 applications, a strong indication that the department can grow in the future. Faculty are continually impressed by the preparation of our students. Students, in turn, report a very high level of satisfaction with the major. The faculty have been gratified to see the department improve with every passing year and every graduating class.

In recognition of our department’s success, alumna, Nancy Fisher South endowed a fund to support faculty and student excellence and Dr. Conway and his wife Cheryl funded a scholarship that was awarded for the first time this year. I hope that the stories in the newsletter enhance your pride as a communications studies major and encourage you to connect with us – via the LinkedIn network, an email update, and/or a donation that we can use to further the objectives of the department. As you know, the department strives always to achieve the highest level of excellence in our students, faculty, staff and curriculum. Enjoy!

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