Brent Smith appointed as School of Communication’s permanent dean

Dr. Brent Smith. Photo credit: Twitter

Dr. Brent Smith. Photo credit: Twitter

By Bailey Allen

Brent Smith will become the dean of Emerson’s School of Communication starting this summer, according to a community-wide announcement from Interim President William Gilligan on Wednesday.

Smith served as the school’s interim dean for a year, stepping into the role after former Dean Raul Reis left in June to become dean of the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“I truly have enjoyed being part of the Emerson community and the SOC community, in particular,” Smith told the Beacon. “Transitioning from leading a department (Marketing Communication) to the entire school has given me a greater perspective on the work we’re doing, the impact we’re having, and the significant potential we have to improve our work and enhance our impact.”

Gilligan credited Smith with being “deeply committed” in his interim tenure to leading the school with “fresh eyes” and strengthened academic programs such as the media psychology major, Gilligan wrote in an email. Prior to this position, Smith started at Emerson as a professor and chair of the Department of Marketing Communication in 2019.

Smith scores the position just as Jay M. Bernhardt takes the helm of the college as president in June.

“I’m excited to join my Emerson colleagues in a few short weeks and to begin working closely with Dean Smith and institutional leaders, as we begin a new chapter in the college’s history,” Bernhardt wrote in a statement.

Smith said he plans to continue “small but important gatherings” such as a monthly “Lunch with the Dean,” he said. He stated his commitment to granting students access and making it easier for them to meet with him and share what makes them happy.

“Even with a shift from ‘interim’ to ‘permanent’, there will be continuity in my style of servant leadership which is agnostic to title but is faithful to purpose,” Smith said.

Before Smith came to Emerson, he worked at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia as a professor of marketing and stepped into the role of interim associate director of the Pedro Arrupe Center for Business Ethics.

Smith earned a doctorate degree in marketing from Drexel University, a master of business administration in marketing and entrepreneurship from Tulane University, and bachelor’s degrees in German and economics from Xavier University.

Journalism Department chair Janet Kolodzy said Smith’s background in business is beneficial, especially because students from across majors can apply such teaching to their respective fields.

She also appreciated that a current faculty member was picked for the job instead of someone from outside of the college community.

“Brent knows Emerson,” Kolodzy said in an interview with the Beacon. “He also has the energy and the mindset to do things that aren’t the way we’ve always done it, but could really elevate both the reputation and recognition of the School of Communication.”

Marketing Communications Department chair Nejem Raheem, who holds the position Smith previously had, said Smith has a knack for looking at the present while thinking about the future.

“Sometimes in an organization, people want to grow, or get bigger in some way—have more faculty, more programs—but they don’t necessarily think about what that means to the existing programs,” Raheem said. “Brent’s always good at, in addition to supporting that instinct, providing the guidance to get us to where we need to get.”

Raheem also said Smith brings an uncommon and healthy perspective to Emerson’s campus since he used to teach at a business school.

“In many ways, he’s a breath of fresh air,” Raheem said. “That’s a different perspective from how we run things here at Emerson. As you probably noticed, it’s not a business school, and there’s a certain transparency and efficiency that he’s gotten used to that we don’t always have.”

Communication Sciences and Disorders Department chair Nydia Bou wrote in an email to the Beacon that Smith’s appointment would result in increased efficiency and a strong connection between all of the academic departments.

“He has an extraordinary ability for strategic thinking and planning,” Bou wrote. “He is the perfect example of the role a dean should have in the face of new institutional leadership which is a combination of flexibility and adaptability.”

Communication Studies Department chair Gregory Payne offered his congratulations in an email statement to the Beacon, writing that “there are great opportunities ahead.”