Dr. Jay M. Bernhardt, UT Austin communication school dean, named 13th president of Emerson College

Dr. Jay M. Bernhardt was selected to become Emerson Colleges 13 president.

Photo: Courtesy of Emerson College

Dr. Jay M. Bernhardt was selected to become Emerson College’s 13 president.

By Bailey Allen, News Editor

Dr. Jay M. Bernhardt, current dean of The University of Texas at Austin’s communication college, will become Emerson College’s 13th president in June, after two years of an interim leader presiding, college officials announced Thursday.

Bernhardt, who was chosen by members of the Presidential Search Committee, will succeed interim President William Gilligan after the spring 2023 semester comes to a close, according to a statement from committee chair Eric Alexander. The announcement comes over 19 months after former President M. Lee Pelton left to lead the Boston Foundation in June 2021.

“Throughout the search process, Dr. Bernhardt expressed admiration for Emerson’s unique focus on the role that arts, communication, and related disciplines play in fostering community, overcoming obstacles, and creating a more equitable society,” Alexander said in the statement.

Bernhardt has led the Moody College of Communication at The University of Texas since 2016. During his tenure, he raised over $145 million in funding, developed a new residential program in New York City, and improved its four-year graduation rate to over 80 percent, Alexander said.

Bernhardt established the college’s first associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion, Alexander said. Bernhardt’s administration increased the college’s “representation of diverse faculty and students” and helped “advance a curricula and culture that fostered equity and inclusivity.”

Bernhardt also was the founding director for the communication college’s Center for Health Communication, Alexander said.

Before his tenure at The University of Texas, Bernhardt held various positions at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., and the University of Georgia in Athens, Alexander said.

He also served as director of the National Center for Health Marketing at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2005 to 2010.

Bernhardt earned his doctoral degree in 1999 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a focus on health communication. He earned both his master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Rutgers University.

On Jan. 25, Bernhardt will visit Emerson’s Cutler Majestic Theatre to address community members, Alexander said. Further details of the event will be announced later on, he said.