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Raul Reis looks forward to new role as dean of UNC's journalism school

Raul Reis, the current dean of the Emerson College School of Communication, has been selected as the next dean of the Hussman School of Journalism and Media. Photo courtesy of UNC Media Relations.

On March 11, Raul Reis was appointed as the dean of the Hussman School of Journalism and Media, following a months-long search.

As he prepares to officially begin his role on July 1, Reis is looking to emphasize community, diversity, equity and inclusion and continue furthering the journalism school's legacy.

“I do want to make the school the best school in the country, the top school in the country,” he said. “I want to have the top programs. I want to be able to attract the top faculty and really have the students graduate with a feeling that it really was worth it.”

Reis is the current dean of the Emerson College School of Communication, and oversees eight undergraduate and 10 graduate degree programs. He was previously dean of Florida International University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

 'A strong supporter of students'

Reis said his biggest accomplishment during his time at Emerson was creating a better sense of community within the school.

“I worked really intentionally with the faculty to build more of a sense of community, which is something that they wanted and something they felt was lacking in the school when I came in six years ago,” he said.

Paul Mihailidis, assistant dean and graduate program director at Emerson, said Reis has overseen a process of creating stronger and more dynamic programs for the School of Communication.

"He's supported faculty research initiatives, he's helped faculty find support and resources for their work," Mihailidis said. "He's very present in the pedagogy and the curriculum of the school, and that's — sometimes that's not very noticeable on the dean's level, but he's been really involved in program development."

Reis said he wants the curriculum at the journalism school to be driven by student learning. He added that students should graduate with the skills needed to be the top professionals in their fields.

"He's a strong supporter of students," Mihailidis said.

'An ongoing process'

Reis, who is from Brazil, earned his bachelor's degree at the Universidade Federal do Pará. He later completed his master's degree in mass communication and media studies at Kansas State University and earned a doctorate degree at the University of Oregon in 1998.

Since then, he has gained experience in reporting and editing at organizations in both Brazil and the U.S. and has held professorships at several universities.

At UNC, Reis said he wants to focus in particular on diversity, equity and inclusion within the journalism school.

He wants DEI to permeate everything the school does — from new programs to curriculum, he said.

"Diversity, equity and inclusion are really important issues to me," Reis said. "And I think I want the students to know that too. I embrace people from diverse backgrounds and I want them to thrive, and I want them to really fulfill their aspirations and their expectations in the school. So I welcome that input."

Mihailidis said that Reis has a record of supporting DEI efforts at Emerson, including on faculty recruitment.

Reis said he was able to hire 40 full-time faculty for the School of Communication. About two thirds of those new faculty are either women, people of color or people from international backgrounds.

“He’s brought a lot of diverse faculty into Emerson,” Mihailidis said.

Reis will begin his role as dean following the UNC Board of Trustees' initial failure to grant tenure to Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones last summer. The situation put the journalism school at the center of national news, as its namesake donor, Walter Hussman Jr., was one of those who opposed Hannah-Jones' hiring.

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Reis said that listening, learning, empathizing and building a sense of community are especially important to him following Hannah-Jones' tenure case.

“I hope that bringing the School together around these conversations will also be the first step toward moving into a more positive and constructive future,” Reis said in an email statement to The Daily Tar Heel.

Hugh Morton Distinguished Professor Heidi Hennink-Kaminski, who is serving as interim dean of the journalism school, said she looks forward to the way that Reis will contribute to culture at Hussman.

"I think that Dr. Reis will be instrumental, in terms of continuing to make sure that we're creating a diverse and inclusive experience for our students and for our faculty," she said.

Hennink-Kaminski said she hopes that Reis increases transparency in the journalism school through community conversations with faculty, students and staff.

“It’s been a challenging time for us, and so our faculty are still kind of healing," she said.

Trevy McDonald, the journalism school's director of diversity, equity and inclusion, said that Reis' plans to foster belonging for students stood out to her.

In regards to the Hannah-Jones tenure case, she said that healing the community is a process.

"It's not something that happens overnight," McDonald said. "And because when you try to heal something overnight, you're really just kind of sticking a Band-Aid on it. So it's going to be an ongoing process."

Looking forward

As he transitions to his deanship at UNC, Reis said he wants to hear ideas and feedback from the community.

“I want to talk to the students, I want to talk to the faculty, I want to talk to other administrators, to the staff," he said. "Find out more about where people are, where they want to go and where they want the school to be."

Reis said he wants students to know that he is there to serve them, the faculty and the community.

“I’m here for you,” he said.