Letter from the Director

Mike Slater

There’s a lot going on and a lot I’d like to share with you: important research, teaching initiatives in development, and expanding alumni efforts to support the School and The Lantern.

As one of the leading communication research programs in the world, we have a special responsibility to help shed light on the extraordinary impact of the Internet and social media on our society, particularly on political processes in democracies. In this issue of the newsletter we are featuring Professor Kelly Garrett, a national leader in such research, as well as research related to social media and to politics by other outstanding faculty in the School.

We are also launching of set of new collaborative research initiatives, designed to stimulate new and innovative projects combining talents of various faculty members who had not in the past worked together, to address important social questions and problems.  One series of studies (by Professors Bond, Knobloch-Westerwick, and Wang) will examine ways in which people self-select what kind of media content they read or view, the ways they restrict whom they interact with on-line, and ways in which social media may be used to counteract the political polarization that may result from restricting one’s media exposure and on-line interactions primarily to people who share one’s beliefs and values.  There are several studies on questions of media, gun violence, and public policy: the possibility that there may be wider support among gun owners for policy restrictions than widely recognized is being examined by Professors Dixon, Garrett, and Bushman and the impact of simply seeing weapons in media on aggressive impulses will be examined by Professors Bushman and Wang.  Another (Professors Fox, Knobloch-Westerick, and Lynch) will use virtual reality simulations to study responses and willingness to intervene in sexual harassment incidents—something nearly impossible to study directly in actual social life.  There’s more of course, but that’ll do for now.

Society is changing, the University is changing, and so the School changes too.  We have exciting new courses in development and are refining program requirements in each area to adapt to today’s needs. The School is also participating in a College of Arts and Sciences initiative to respond to student demand for “microcredentials” by developing certificate programs…a more flexible version of minors allowing students from inside and outside our majors to develop specialized expertise in selected areas. By next fall we hope to have many of these approved and getting ready to launch, so stay tuned!

One of the most exciting initiatives is our Advancement Board, led by the extraordinary Sandy Hermanoff, who was featured in our last issue. The Advancement Board is leading efforts to support the School and in particular The Lantern. By next fall we should be able to announce details of these efforts, including a new Lantern alumni website, where those of you who honed your thinking, interviewing, research, writing, and editing skills on The Lantern can join in a community of alumni.  Such support is of enormous importance to the School.  In fact, the College of Arts and Sciences featured The Lantern in the March 21 Day of Giving, raising $14,636 in a single day.  We are also featuring one of our generous donors, Steve Nidetz, in this issue.

That’s all for now.  Lots going on, lots to report, and a lot more that we hope to be able to announce this coming fall.

Until then,

Michael Slater