Press Release: Shanahan named Media School founding dean

The Media School Report • Dec. 4, 2014
Contact:Mark Land
Associate Vice President
IU Communications
Ryan Piurek
Director, Strategic Communications
IU Communications
James Shanahan (The Media School)
James Shanahan has been named founding dean of The Media School. (Courtesy photo)



James Shanahan, professor and associate dean of the College of Communication at Boston University, has been appointed founding dean of Indiana University’s Media School.

In October 2013, the IU Board of Trustees approved the formation of a Media School that combined programs of teaching, learning and research in journalism, telecommunications, communication and culture, and film, all within the College of Arts and Sciences. The school officially came into existence July 1 and was inaugurated Oct. 17. The school will eventually be housed in Franklin Hall, which will be equipped with state-of-the-art classrooms and new digital production facilities.

“I’m honored to be selected as the dean of The Media School,” Shanahan said. “There is no question that media of all kinds have been converging for quite some time. An integrated media curriculum makes a lot of sense and is likely to be very successful right out of the gate.”

Shanahan added that bringing all media disciplines under one umbrella will create new, exciting routes through the curriculum.

“IU has the components for an integrated media curriculum that will make it possible for students to examine media from humanistic, professional, social science and technical perspectives,” he said. “We have the potential to unlock many voices throughout the university. Our job is to find and tune those voices, allowing for greater freedom of expression, more diversity of expression and more meaningful messages that contribute to the common good.”

At Boston University, Shanahan took part in the crafting of a new diversity statement for the university; he looks forward to bringing that focus to his work at IU.

During the next few months, Shanahan will meet with faculty researchers and practitioners from an array of backgrounds and programs; finalize the curriculum; develop ideas for graduate programs; and plan for the development activity needed to make the school great, all while implementing new tracks and specialty areas that will be housed in the school.

“Those faculty and others I have met with so far have been incredibly generous in sharing their perspectives, and I look forward to extending that conversation to everyone as I get started,” he said.

Shanahan said he and his wife, Lisa, have been overwhelmed by the hospitality and enthusiasm they’ve experienced on campus. “It’s impossible not to partake of the IU spirit. The campus is gorgeous and Bloomington is charming. We’ll miss Boston, but we’re looking forward to a new chapter as Hoosiers.”

Dan Smith, search committee chair and president and CEO of the IU Foundation, said Shanahan comes to IU with the full repertoire of skills and experience needed to be a highly effective founding dean of the new Media School.  

“An accomplished scholar and proven academic leader, Dr. Shanahan is known for ‘getting the job done’ and fostering consensus in the process,” Smith said.

“James Shanahan brings a wealth of experience and a keen understanding of modern-day media and its numerous cultural and environmental effects worldwide that promise to have an immediate impact on the growth and development of Indiana University’s new Media School,” IU President Michael A. McRobbie said.

“His background and research interests are excellent matches for the first-rate educational program that we continue to build at The Media School, one that encourages critical thinking about media in all of its varied forms and prepares students to successfully manage all of the communications tools available to them in today’s digital age,” McRobbie said.

Shanahan’s research focuses on media effects and public opinion, especially television’s contributions to viewers’ beliefs and attitudes. He has particularly emphasized the study of the communication of science and environment. His studies in this area have focused on the impact of media on environmental attitudes, the environmental content of media and the narrative structure of environmental news. He has published several books and numerous articles and chapters. He has served as editor of the journal Mass Communication and Society and is an editorial board member of several academic journals in the field of communication.

“James Shanahan is a widely admired and important media scholar and an imaginative and skilled administrator,” said Larry Singell, executive dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “He brings a tremendous portfolio of skills and experiences to the job at this pivotal moment in the life of the school, and we are delighted to have him in this role.”

Singell said that the College is deeply grateful to Lesa Hatley Major, associate dean of The Media School, for playing a guiding role with the school’s Faculty Advisory Board and planning committees over the past year. “Lesa has been a supportive presence for the faculty and staff as they work to create an ambitious new curriculum and structure for the school. She has fostered a spirit of mutual respect and collegiality that will carry us far into the future.”

Betsi Grabe, professor of telecommunications in The Media School, said Shanahan’s appointment brings the school considerable foundational strength.

“Jim exemplifies what we admire in academic leadership, and he will vitalize the merger process in its final stretch to completion,” she said. “Students, faculty and staff are eager for our dean’s arrival in Bloomington and looking forward to working with him in building an extraordinary Media School at IU.”

Before his position at Boston University, Shanahan was chair of the Department of Communication and director of graduate programs at Fairfield University. He spent more than a decade as a professor in the Department of Communication at Cornell University and was an assistant professor at Boston University College of Communication. He received his Ph.D. in communication from University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

IU Bloomington Provost and Executive Vice President Lauren Robel praised the efforts of the search committee in attracting a person whose vision is aligned with the Media School’s mission.

“The Media School was founded on the belief that the health of our democracy depends upon the free, unfettered flow of information and ideas through every available media channel,” Robel said. “James Shanahan is committed to this belief and passionate about engaging students in critical explorations of the ethical uses of media.”