Dean Search

Michigan State University is conducting a search for its next Dean of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences.

Updates throughout the process will be provided on this webpage. The WittKieffer consulting firm will facilitate the search process. If you have nominations for qualified applicants, please send them to the consulting firm.

Dean Position Overview

Michigan State University’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences, established in 1955, was the first such college in the country. Today, with more than 3,500 students and more than 56,000 alumni, it's one of the largest and most respected. With nationally ranked programs and internationally renowned faculty members, MSU ComArtSci prepares students for careers across a broad spectrum of the arts and sciences of communication. 

The college is home to four departments – Advertising and Public Relations, Communication, Communicative Sciences and Disorders and Media and Information, in addition to the School of Journalism, and WKAR-AM/FM/TV. Reporting to the Provost, the Dean serves as the leader for the degree granting college at MSU.

Position Profile (PDF)

Position posting and details

Search Finalists

On behalf of the Search Committee, we are pleased to announce the finalists in the search for the next Dean of the College of Communication Arts and Sciences

Photo of Kjerstin Thorson

View candidate CV

Candidate campus visit: November 20-21

Kjerstin Thorson, Ph.D., is Brandt Endowed Professor of Political Communication and Associate Dean for Strategic Initiatives in the College of Communication Arts & Sciences (ComArtSci). As Associate Dean, she leads implementation of the college strategic plan, oversees revenue generating programs and the college’s marketing and communication office, and provides strategic direction to facilities planning, the college budget, and advancement.

Under Thorson’s leadership, the college has grown its portfolio of revenue generating partnerships, created a college-wide Center for Teaching and Learning, launched the Ignite the Future family of programs to support student success for first-generation and historically marginalized students, and expanded MSU’s esports initiative. In 2020, she led ComArtSci’s inclusive strategic planning process. Thorson partnered with colleagues to lead several initiatives in support of culture and climate, including establishing formal promotion pathways for fixed-term faculty, developing a college climate survey, and creating culture-building events such as ComArtSci Celebrates (celebrating faculty and staff success) and Love, ComArtSci (community building efforts to support students).

Thorson is an internationally recognized political communication scholar. Her research examines digital platforms and their impact on our civic lives. Her work appears in leading journals, including Journal of Communication, Information, Communication & Society, New Media & Society, and Communication Theory. Thorson’s scholarship has been supported by the NSF, the Social Science Research Council, and the Spencer Foundation. She is the recipient of multiple research and teaching awards, including Michigan State University’s Teacher-Scholar Award. She was a 2022-2023 Fellow of the Big 10 Academic Alliance Leadership Program. Thorson holds a Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a master’s degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Prior to joining MSU in 2016, Thorson was on the faculty of the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. There, she served as Research Director for USC’s Strategic Communication and Public Relations Center, a role enhanced by her years of professional experience in public relations.

Photo of Heidi Henninck-Kaminski

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Candidate campus visit: November 28-29

Heidi Hennink-Kaminski, Ph.D., is the Hugh Morton Distinguished Professor in UNC-Chapel Hill’s Hussman School of Journalism and Media where she joined the faculty in 2006 after completing her doctorate in mass communication at the University of Georgia. She currently serves as the senior associate dean for academic and faculty affairs. Previously she served for 10 years as the senior associate dean for graduate studies and as interim dean from January to June 2022. She is an 11-year member of the Dean’s Cabinet and serves on the Executive Vice Provost’s Leadership Council as well as the UNC Academic Policy Committee.

Her research focuses on interdisciplinary health communication with an emphasis on the social marketing approach to promote healthy behaviors among individuals and communities. This work involves conducting formative research with target audiences to understand the health behavior issue from their perspective, which in turn informs the development and testing of theoretically based messages and intervention platforms. Hennink-Kaminski’s research has been funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the U.S. Department of Defense, and the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation. She has authored book chapters on telecommunications marketing and transnational advertising and has published in Science Communication; Social Marketing Quarterly; Contemporary Clinical Trials; Journal of Current Issues & Research in Advertising; Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly; Obesity Reviews; Sexuality & Culture; and Health, Culture and Society.

Hennink-Kaminski teaches marketing, social marketing and strategic communication courses and is a recipient of the school’s David Brinkley Teaching Excellence Award and the Edward Vick Prize for Innovation in Teaching.

Prior to joining academia, Hennink-Kaminski accumulated 15 years of corporate and agency professional experience including senior marketing communications roles. She is a Michigan native with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan and a master’s degree from Western Michigan University.

Photo of Deborah Cai

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Candidate campus visit: 
November 30 - December 1

Deborah A. Cai (Ph.D., Michigan State University) is the Senior Associate Dean and Professor in the Klein College of Media and Communication at Temple University, and she is a faculty member in the Media and Communication doctoral program. She has a wide range of administrative experience, having served as graduate director, department chair, and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies before being appointed as the Senior Associate Dean of Klein College. 

Dr. Cai is an international researcher with scholarly and professional expertise in intercultural communication, persuasion, and negotiation and conflict management. She has conducted research in China, Japan, and the U.S., and she has trained political and business leaders from Afghanistan, China, Kazakhstan, and developing nations from the Asian Pacific Economic Commission (APEC) and the State Department’s leadership program. Deborah is a Fellow in the International Academy for Intercultural Research and a Fellow and past president of the International Association for Conflict Management (IACM). She is Past-Chair of the Conflict Management division of the Academy of Management. Deborah served as editor of the journal, Negotiation and Conflict Management Research, and is editor of the four-volume collection of research, Intercultural Communication (Sage, Benchmark in Communication). Her research has been published in outlets such as Communication Monographs, Communication Research, International Journal of Conflict Management, Human Communication Research, Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, as well as The Handbook of Intercultural Communication and the SAGE Handbook of Communication and Conflict. She is currently co-editing the Handbook of Research on Communication and Negotiation (Edward Elgar). 

Photo of J. Brian Houston

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Candidate campus visit: December 4-5

J. Brian Houston, Ph.D., is Chair and Professor in the Department of Public Health and Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Missouri (MU). Previously, Houston served as Chair of the Department of Communication and Interim Chair of the Department of Sociology at MU. He is Director of the Disaster and Community Crisis Center ( at MU, an interdisciplinary research and community engagement center focused on enhancing preparedness, recovery, and resilience in individuals and communities affected by disaster and community crisis.

Houston's research is interdisciplinary and focuses on communication at all phases of disasters and community crises. His work examines the mental, behavioral, and public health effects of these events. Houston’s research considers maladaptive outcomes following disasters such as distress and dysfunction, but also explores how humans are adaptive and resilient following collective traumatic events. He has published over 75 journal articles on these topics. He teaches courses on disaster, risk, and crisis communication as well as introductory courses on communication and public health. He is currently advising five doctoral students working on topics such as the role of race in police and community member communication and the influence of stigma on provider communication with individuals using opioids.

Houston's work has been supported by over $3 million of research funding as Principal Investigator. He has received support from federal agencies such as the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), National Institute for Nursing Research (NINR), and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). He has also received foundation support from Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute.

Search Timeline

  • January 30, 2023 – Search committee seated
  • February - April 2023 – Listening sessions with constituency groups
  • July - August 2023 – Position posted and advertised
  • Fall Semester 2023 – Candidate Review and Interviews
  • December 2023 – Candidate selection

Search Committee

Bruno Takahashi
Brandt Endowed Professor of Environmental Communication, School of Journalism

Kendra Cheruvelil
Dean, Lyman Briggs College

Fashina Aladé
Assistant Professor, Department of Advertising and Public Relations

Kevin Cooney
Director of Annual Giving, WKAR

Ricardo Guimaraes
Professor of Practice, Department of Media and Information

Teresia Hagelberger
Director of Human Resources

Meredith Jagutis
Senior Director of Development

Maria Lapinski
Director of the Michigan State University Health and Risk Communication Center, Department of Communication

Kari Lopez
Interim Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Education

Lauren McKenzie
Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Brian O'Connor
ComArtSci Alumni Representative

Bobbie Rathjens
Ph.D. student, Department of Communication

Manu Sastry
Communication Leadership and Strategy student, Department of Communication

Alexandrea Stanley
Instructor, Department of Advertising and Public Relations

Monique Turner
Chairperson, Department of Communication

Courtney Venker
Assistant Professor, Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders

Susan Wyche
Associate Professor, Department of Media and Information


Questions about the College of Communication Arts and Sciences Dean Search can be directed to the search firm, WittKieffer.