A Fond Farewell to My Spartan Family

Posted on: January 28, 2014

Dean-WPThis week I load up the car to head down south to Athens to begin the next chapter of my career as Senior Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs and Provost for the University of Georgia. It's a wonderfully exciting honor for me, and an opportunity to demonstrate my commitment to creating a world-class educational experience for today's students at an exceptional public land-grant institution. Yet, it is with mixed emotions that I post my final blog, "Written by Whitten," as Dean of MSU's College of Communication Arts & Sciences. I feel a bit like a character in a Horatio Alger story. A lot of hard work accompanied by tremendous support and opportunities from my colleagues at MSU enabled me to have a tremendous ride at this outstanding institution. As those who know me can attest, I will always have deep personal ties to my Spartan family.

I first joined MSU as a brand new assistant professor in 1998 and was greeted by an incredibly warm, brilliant, hard-working and fun-loving team of colleagues. At that time, the Provost (who is now MSU's President) went out of her way to help open doors for me to connect with leaders in health and telecommunications that could help advance my research interest in telemedicine. The Dean of CAS at that time also embraced me as a new faculty member who wanted to work in nontraditional ways.

After teaching and sharpening my research capabilities as part of the CAS Media and Information(TISM) department, I became an Associate Professor, then full Professor and eventually headed up the Health and Risk Communication Center. Shortly thereafter, I took on more administrative responsibilities as the Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies. In 2009, I was appointed Dean of the College of Communication Arts & Sciences.

My priorities and points of pride have always been with creating the best learning opportunities for our students, which demands having a stellar faculty and staff. Despite a global recession that hit Michigan's economy particularly hard, the CAS leadership across the college has worked enthusiastically with me, boldly stepping forward and embracing the future.

As a result, we have witnessed unprecedented levels of research productivity and external funding throughout the college. We have also created a highly innovative creative curriculum, the Media Sandbox, that is the envy of every other college of communication and is positioned to leap to fearless heights in the next few years. With a dynamic new director and the potential for an associated residential component in the near future, you can expect BIG things from the Media Sandbox.

Our School of Journalism was just reaccredited with glowing reviews and is one of the longest, continually accredited journalism programs in the country. The new director for the Knight Center for Environmental Journalism heads a highly respected team of scholars and journalists and we have the top sports journalism program around. Our faculty and students have embraced the new paradigm for news reporting and are on the cutting-edge of integrating emerging technologies to improve the timeliness and relevance of storytelling in a multimedia world.

TISM's game design for learning and entertainment is flourishing and recognized by Princeton Review as in the top 10 in North America. The growth in funded research projects for game design, social media, human-computer interaction, and communication technologies in remote areas of the world is increasing significantly.

The Communicative Sciences and Disorders department is attracting an exciting array of new faculty and graduate students, adding a whole new depth and breadth to our research expertise. Additionally, the curriculum is being transformed to provide students more meaningful, team-based, problem-solving skills, clinical experiences and preparation for the challenges they will meet in their professions.

The level of creativity and scholarship in our Advertising and Public Relations department continues to be amplified as our students win top recognition at both regional and national competitions. Our students are heavily recruited by corporations and organizations around the world.

With new leadership at the helm of our Department of Communication and the new Strosacker Foundation Endowment for Health and Risk Communication Research in place, our reputation as an international leader and innovator in communication research and education continues to grow.

The College of Communication Arts & Sciences elevated itself to new heights over the past several years because of the outstanding team of leaders it currently has in place. The department chairs, associate deans and administrative leadership are truly visionary and relentless in their pursuit of excellence for our students and faculty. What has been most gratifying and remarkable to me throughout my years as dean is how the leadership team has come together to work collaboratively in ways this college had never experienced before now. In today's fast-paced, global marketplace, sharing ideas, assets and true collaboration are absolutely critical.

However, our faculty members are the very heart of this college. It is their drive to conduct life-changing research while preparing tomorrow's global leaders in communication that makes CAS among the very best. And, while our faculty provide the heartbeat, our students provide the very soul of who we are. It is their curiosity, creativity and drive that define CAS for today and tomorrow.

On a personal level, the friendships and memories that my husband, three children and I have shared as Spartans will stay with us throughout our lives.

While I may have Georgia on my mind (particularly with these frigid temperatures!), from my heart I urge you to - Go Green! Go White! Go Forth!

And always know you have a friend in Georgia-

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