Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson professor works to build bridges overseas

Image courtesy of David Gerzof Richard

Public Relations Professor in the Department of Communications Studies David Gerzof Richard was named honorary consul of Iceland to Boston by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Iceland. Through Richard’s time with Emerson and within the public relations sector, he has fostered a connection with the country and served as a bridge between Iceland and Boston by exercising his knowledge of both regions in a diplomatic manner. 

Richard’s office now serves as a visual representation of his position. His bookshelves house the typical office stationery and books, with the recent addition of a plaque from the Icelandic government, a symbol of his service. 

“​​Part of my role is to facilitate dialogue, business communication, you name it, between the good people of Iceland and the good people of Boston and Massachusetts as a whole,” Richard said. 

The Embassy of Iceland is located in Washington, D.C., yet its consulates are stationed across the United States. Richard will work with individuals in the Boston area who seek to engage with Iceland in any way, whether for travel or business. The same applies to individuals in Iceland looking to connect with the Boston community.

“You’re working as a liaison between the Icelandic government and the local Boston community, so I’m promoting economic development, economic opportunities [and] the consular services.” 

Before becoming a professor at Emerson 20 years ago, Richard was a student on campus and got his master’s degree in communications. His former peer, Hlynur Gudjonsson, an Emerson alum who currently serves as ambassador of Iceland to Canada and Costa Rica, nominated Richard for the position. 

While Richard was a student at Emerson, the chair of communications studies and co-director of the Center for Global Communication, Gregory Payne, was one of his professors. Payne was a representative with UNICEF at the time and had a connection for his students to work with the Queen of Jordan, Noor Al Hussein. Richard and a few other students of Payne’s worked together to represent Boston as part of a landline campaign Queen Noor was visiting the city to address. 

“David’s been very creative throughout his time,” Payne said. “When he was an undergrad, he was an entrepreneur who created one of the first abilities to use global phone service, and this was as a student.  He’s someone I’ve admired since I had him as a student. He’s what I would call a disruptive leader. He looks at where people are, and he pushes people forward. I admire that quality.” 

Upon graduating, Richard accumulated expertise in public relations, which he seeks to apply to his new position. He has gained knowledge of Icelandic culture through his public relations agency, BIG FISH PR, which he founded 25 years ago. For ten years, BIG FISH PR represented Iceland in trade and tourism by doing public relations through digital media. His agency also represents PLAY Airlines, which frequently flies flights from Boston to Iceland and other European countries.

“[The agency is] very much in the private sector, working with technology companies, innovation brands, big brands, … but through all that, there is not a door that I saw to get into diplomacy, which I’m fascinated with,” Richard said. “I work in the realm of fast-paced negotiations in the business world, but this was something that was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I couldn’t say no to.” 

With his expertise in public relations, Richard feels he’s acquired crisis management skills that are applicable and suitable for a diplomatic role. 

“Certainly strong communication skills, being a good listener, understanding, and then really being able to find solutions where everybody wins, at least somewhat,” Richard said. “And that’s a big part of any sort of diplomatic mission.” 

Along with working with the nation professionally, Richard has visited Iceland about 12 times, allowing him to learn about Icelandic culture and values. Being a self-proclaimed “native Bostonian,” Richard also feels equipped with his knowledge about the city. 

“I fell in love with the country, the people, the culture, even from my first time over there,” Richard said. “It’s a fascinating place where the people are just incredibly warm, super resourceful, open-minded, and focused on nature conservation.” 

Richard’s international connections extend beyond Iceland. He is the head of Emerson’s Global Communication Project, where 50 universities from across the globe collaborate on a project, this year focusing on Mattel and Barbie. 

“I think he’s always had a very interesting global perspective, connecting people, as I said, through telephones when he was a student,” Payne said. “And this is just another way for him to showcase his skills, as well as shine a little light on communication studies.” 

According to Richard, he still has the “new car smell.” Since he is new to the role, he is unsure what the logistics of communicating with the Icelandic government will be yet. In the past, Richard has given Icelandic entrepreneurs tours of Boston’s business opportunities, including MassChallenge and Greentown Labs. 

“These are institutions that invite companies to build themselves into scale,” Richard said. “There’s a lot of different industries in Iceland that align with the startup community here in Boston and vice versa.” 

The time Richard spends in his role is up to the will of the ministry, but he is “hopeful this will be for quite some time.” 

“I hope to educate a few more Bostonians, as I am right now, to all that Iceland has to offer,” Richard said. 

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About the Contributor
Bridget Frawley
Bridget Frawley, Staff Writer
Bridget Frawley (she/her) is a freshman journalism major from Jupiter, Florida. When she is not writing for the news section, she is a morning anchor for Mornings with George Knight of WERS 88.9 FM. She also loves reading, going on long walks, and thrifting.

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