Professor Naeemah Clark and Associate Professor Ben Hannam take over the top leadership positions of the Cinema & Television Arts Department and Communication Design Department, respectively. Vic Costello has been named director of communications core and minor.
In advance of the 2021-22 academic year, the School of Communications has made several administrative changes. Professor Naeemah Clark has been named chair of the Cinema & Television Arts Department and Associate Professor Ben Hannam was appointed chair of the Communication Design Department. Additionally, Associate Professor Vic Costello will serve as the new director of the communications core and minor. All three School of Communications leadership positions are effective June 1.
During their respective tenures at Elon University, the three faculty members have been active teachers, mentors and researchers, publishing, presenting and volunteering regularly in their academic pursuits, while also participating in campus initiatives.
Communications Dean Rochelle Ford commended Clark, Hannam and Costello for embracing their new responsibilities and for their continued commitment to the school, colleagues and students.
“This is a wonderful group of educators and scholars, who bring an important blend of teaching and professional experience to their respective positions,” Ford said. “During my three years at Elon, Naeemah, Ben and Vic have been visible and invaluable members of the school, and these new roles are an example of their willingness to support the School of Communications. Their perspectives, inclusive leadership and care will lead to greater opportunities for student success, which is at the heart of everything we do.”
Clark, who is succeeding Costello as chair of the Cinema & Television Arts Department, expressed excitement at directing this group of talented faculty members and students – particularly at this time.
“This is a great time to be leading a team interested in making our students the best possible storytellers, producers and media professionals,” she said. “The entertainment industry is in transition as a result of #MeToo, the increased demand for diversity and inclusion, and the changes in technology can turn anyone into a media mogul. Preparing students to be successful in this climate is an exciting challenge.”
Clark commended Costello for his work as the department’s founding chair, acknowledging his efforts to increase the major’s electives and his organizational skills to assemble search committees, oversee curriculum changes, and address technological shifts. “To do this well, you have to really understand the expertise and interest of every member of the department. I’ve always been impressed that Vic knows the ins and outs of all of the faculty,” she said.
As a cinema and television arts faculty member for 11 years, Clark is familiar with her colleagues in the department, championing their teaching abilities and willingness to work with students in their co-curricular work. “The faculty are funny, hardworking and smart,” she said. “It’ll be great to lead and learn from them. My goal is to help them be the best they can be.”
Already a visible and active member of the Communication Design Department, Hannam takes the reins from founding chair Randy Piland. The new chair explained that he looks forward to helping the major continue its growth and prosperity – a process he has seen since its very beginning.
“The communication design (CDE) chair role appeals to me because I enjoy building programs and working with the faculty in the CDE major,” Hannam said. “I’ve been part of the CDE major since it began in 2014 and over the years I’ve seen the major grow from five students to become one of the fastest-growing majors on campus. It’s exciting to be part of such a vibrant and growing community and I look forward to working with my colleagues to continue our success.”
While the major has experienced tremendous growth, the department has concentrated on identifying ways to deepen the student experience, connecting with other faculty, programs and initiatives. Hannam credited Piland for his humble, effective leadership, noting how students and faculty benefited from his open-door policy, positive attitude and hard work. Hannam looks to build upon Piland’s foundation with input from others.
“Design ‘borrows’ from many different disciplines and I’m really excited to see where our student and faculty interests will take us,” Hannam said. “Communication design is a discipline that allows one to explore their personal interests, respond to human need, and amplify the voices in our community. We live in a world that can be turbulent at times and I’m excited for our students and faculty to engage with it in meaningful ways.”
Hannam applauded his fellow communication design faculty for not only their expertise, but also the breadth of their skills. He noted that faculty have experience with UI/UX, analytics, visual communication, photography, and many other relevant skillsets – and this variety of skills is a benefit to students.
“This makes it easy for students to find a faculty member who shares their interests and get to know them,” he said. That last part is what really sets Elon apart from other institutions, explained Hannam.
“Students who are interested in the CDE major can feel confident that they won’t just be a warm body,” he said. “That’s not how our program was built and that doesn’t represent the Elon University teacher/mentor/scholar model. Instead, we’ll get to know you, and your interests. We’ll talk with you about some ways your strengths, passions, interests and experience can dovetail together to make you the strongest candidate for a job, entrepreneur or graduate school that you can be.”
Having just completed his 20th year at Elon, Costello assumes the role of communications core and minor director, overseeing the school’s opening and closing core courses, communications electives and the communications minor. In his two decades on campus, Costello has been a regular contributor to school and university committees and held several leadership positions, including chair of the University Curriculum Committee for two years and chair of the school’s Technology Committee for 14 years.
Nationally, Costello has served on the Broadcast Education Association’s Board of Directors for the past seven years and currently serves as the association’s president.
While leading the Cinema & Television Arts Department the past two years, Costello collaborated with faculty to create a department mission statement, program-specific learning outcomes, new assessment plans and measures specific to CTA, while also conducting a comprehensive review of the curriculum. This led to the successful passage of a major curriculum proposal this spring.
“Together, I think these experiences have prepared me for the challenges that lie ahead … especially in the immediate term, as collectively, our focus for the next few years will be on school-wide curriculum revisions, re-accreditation efforts, and new initiatives,” Costello said.
Costello noted that the school’s curriculum is founded upon a set of common values and competencies that help prepare students for careers in communications and sport management. Serving these objectives is what drew him to the position.
Costello said he wants to follow the lead of his predecessor, Professor Julie Lellis, acknowledging her deep care for interdisciplinary studies and her willingness to engage in important conversations.
“I was intrigued by the challenges and opportunities this position offers to directly support and impact the work of students and faculty at the intersections of interdisciplinary studies,” Costello said. “Our curriculum and facilities are cutting edge and feature high-impact engaged learning … that provide students with abundant opportunities to put theory into practice while inspiring them to write, think and produce as media professionals working in a digital age.”
To maintain the close mentorship opportunities students, faculty and staff enjoy and expect, the school adopted and implemented a new departmental structure in 2019. The school incorporated a structure with six undergraduate programs, each with its own chair or program director. Previously, the school had just two departments: Communications and Sport Management.