By: Karina Valdes
Studio A was filled with students eager to meet the new dean of the School of Communication, Karin Gwinn Wilkins, during the Student Meet and Greet on Sept. 19.
“Congratulations, you have picked the right School and you have absolutely picked the right major. There is nothing more relevant right now than communication,” said Wilkins.
Dean Wilkins hosted the forum to meet with students and to hear about their experiences at the School.
“I want communication to matter and I want what we do here to have significance. Help me think through how we can do that,” Wilkins asked.
The conversation centered on learning more about Dean Wilkins’ ideas for growing the School, with a focus on her plans for inclusion among students and increasing diversity.
“This needs to be a safe and supportive environment, and we need to make sure that we all feel like this within our University,” said Wilkins.
Dean Wilkins detailed several approaches to creating a successful climate of inclusion including gender neutral bathrooms, helping international students feel more welcomed, mentoring programs, and continued conversations to make the School a more supportive place.
Bailey Donine, a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in marketing, felt that Dean Wilkins touched on great points and that the student recommendations were very helpful.
“It seems she has lots of experience and wants to help. We are in the mecca for this amazing communication school,” said Donine.
Dean Wilkins received both her master’s degree and Ph.D. in communication from the University of Pennsylvania Annenberg School for Communication. Her studies concentrated on development and social change, as well as global communication, focusing on how to use communication for good.
“We recognize many, many problems that are part of our media representations, our communication patterns. But I want to think positively about what we can do to improve our media and communication,” said Wilkins.
Throughout her undergraduate and graduate education, she spent time studying abroad, an experience she greatly advocates for students to take part in.
“I came from a very small town in Pennsylvania and I was able to find a fellowship to study at the University of Edinburgh, which then gave me the opportunity to study a language and other cultures. I found a fellowship then to study at the American University of Cairo. And these were the experiences that transformed my life,” said Wilkins.
Dean Wilkins received her bachelor of arts in interdisciplinary studies from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, which included a St. Andrew’s Society fellowship through which she studied for a year at the University of Edinburgh and a subsequent fellowship through Rotary International where she spent a year with the American University in Cairo. She worked at the Pew Charitable Trusts evaluating health programs, then taught at the Chinese University of Hong Kong for two years before coming back to the U.S. where she began a 24-year career at the University of Texas at Austin.
“Texas is a fantastic place, so I wouldn’t have left it if I didn’t really want to be a part of this School,” said Wilkins.
While at UT Austin, Dean Wilkins created a global studies certificate for undergraduates and an undergraduate degree in communication and leadership. She was also director for the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, and, her most recent position, was associate dean for faculty affairs and strategic initiatives.
Here at the School, Dean Wilkins expressed she is committed to creating a lasting community for our students.
“I care about your experience in your courses and outside of your courses. I also want you to stay connected with the School when you graduate because you are forming life-lasting bonds and, as you graduate, I want you to be a part of this community moving forward,” said Wilkins.