The Chapman School of Comm’s New Dean Is a Mathematician, and Here’s Why It’s Not as Wild as It Seems
When Mr. Andrew Moshier was asked to become Dean of the School of Communication at Chapman University, his first reaction was surprise. He’d been a department chair for 10 years, but he wasn’t aiming for the college version of the corner office.
And there was another very small factor. It is mathematician and computer scientist. A very accomplished, but still a scholar who seemed a world away from communication studies.
Or maybe not. As Moshier, Ph.D., considered the new position, the idea made sense academically and administratively. His early work and his thesis focused on the science and mathematics of language and linguistics and established mathematical foundations for contemporary formal linguistics. Later, he worked on projects in formal linguistics and computer science, in particular on the European Commission project (the precursor to the European Union) called Verbmobil.
“In a way, it’s like coming home. Initially, I was going to be a linguist,” he says.
However, the opportunity to work in a truly interdisciplinary way was equally appealing. Chapman actively nurtures cross-disciplinary connections, he says, so the move didn’t seem so unconventional. Additionally, he previously held the position of Head of the Mathematics, Physics, and Computer Science Department and describes his leadership style as one that is transferable.
“I love being someone who introduces people to each other and facilitates that kind of communication and collaboration. It’s a real treat for me. I can walk away and watch them work together,” he says. .
This is an opportune time for this style of leadership among the relatively young communication schoolcreated in 2017 by its inaugural dean, Professor Lisa Sparks, says Glenn Pfeiffer, former provost of Chapman who made the appointment.
“This transition period is very important to them as they continue their journey to national prominence. Drew has been an active and visible participant in the Chapman community for over two decades now – as a researcher, teacher and leader in faculty governance. His multidisciplinary background as well as his thoughtful, deliberate and collaborative leadership style made him a natural fit for this role,” said Pfeiffer.
Although young, the school enrolls over 650 undergraduate and graduate students, including an inaugural Ph.D. cohort that will graduate in the spring of 2022. With such a strong start, Moshier says he and his faculty can strategically plan the school’s next steps.
He “reads and absorbs much” of the literature on communication studies and how the discipline can meet the changing needs of students and society. He sees scholarship and teaching opportunities around artificial intelligence, science communication, and challenges arising from algorithmic communication deployed by social media companies.
Political communication also interests him.
“We really want to try to understand in a healthy way how we can reclaim political communication to be good for us. Because right now I think almost everyone agrees that the way we communicate about politics is unhealthy,” he says.
He says it’s too early to envision what might develop under his tenure at the School of Communication, but he envisions building interdisciplinary bridges across campus.
“We are not an isolated school of communication. We are integrated into a university that values interdisciplinary relationships. I can’t think of a discipline that doesn’t need to communicate well,” he says. “We understand the structure of communication and can ask the right questions. We can help.”
And who doesn’t need a little help communicating these days?