New Communication Chair Erica Scharrer

Erica Scharrer
Tuesday, March 12, 2013

by Kailey Anarino '13

Professor Erica Scharrer began her new role as chair of the Department of Communication just prior to the start of the second semester. She brings both her incredible experience in Communication and her devoted support of faculty and students to the position. I sat down with Professor Scharrer recently to give us all a better sense of her interests and what she hopes to accomplish.

Q: How long have you been at UMass?
A: I've been here since 1999, completing research and teaching students.

Q: Where did you go to college and graduate school?
A: I attended college and graduate school in upstate New York, where I grew up. I completed my undergrad at SUNY Geneseo and received my master’s and PhD degrees at Syracuse University, where I graduated in 1998.

Q: What is your favorite thing about the Communication Department?
A: The fact that our faculty and students take part in work that matters. There is this shared vibe throughout the department that unites individuals who wish to make a difference in the world. It is clear that we are all devoted to improving the community, the lives of the students, and the rest of the world.

Q: What is your area of study?
A: My focus is on media effects; how the media influences individuals and how it affects their behaviors, feelings and conceptions.

Q: What classes have you taught?
A: Two classes that I have taught include COMM 338: Children, Teens and the Media and the four-hundred-level course, COMM 426: Media Violence. Because of my new position, I have taken a break from teaching; however, I will be returning to teach COMM 101 to first-year students in the fall. I am also working to turn my Capstone course into a four-hundred-level Video Games: Theory and Research.

Q: What is it like being chair?
A: I have taken a step back from my own research and teaching to serve as an administrator and an advocate for the department. I facilitate events and programs along with my colleagues. I make sure faculty members receive the funding they need to pursue their own research and to sustain their own programs. I love my colleagues and enjoy supporting their research. We have very driven faculty members in our department, and it is great to be able to grant them with the resources they need.

Q: How many terms does the chair serve?
A: One agrees to serve for three years. At the end of three years, one decides to continue or to rotate the position to another qualified faculty member.

Q: What are your plans as chair?
A: I plan to continue what has already been built in this department. I will support our amazing faculty with the resources they need to sustain the events, programs, and research that have been implemented over the years. I also plan to enhance the bond between students and the department by continuing to run events such as the Senior BBQ, the Comm Student Showcase, the Peer Advising Program and the Comm Alumni Networking Night. I would also like to strengthen the connection between the department and its alumni, and to celebrate the members of our faculty who have had their work published. It is important to recognize the amazing work that has been completed in our department and I plan to do so while Chair.

Q: What has been your major challenge as chair?
A: Although I love facilitating and supporting faculty who are conducting research, I have not had enough time to work on my own, and this has been a struggle. I also miss teaching.

Q: What do you do in your spare time?
A: I enjoy reading, spending time with my six-year-old daughter, and seeing live music in Northampton. I also am an avid sports fan. I play softball in the summer and watch just about every sport on television. Although I am a proud Buffalo Bills fan, I am a supporter of the Red Sox!

Q: What would you like to tell Comm students?
A: That I would love to hear from them! I am very open to hearing your suggestions for the department, such as ideas for events and the website. I am glad you are here and am committed to fostering a community. Come see me!

Kailey Anarino ’13, a communication major, is the student assistant in the SBS Dean’s Office and a Communication Peer Advisor.