Respected admin brings expertise in 21st century practices, deepfake research
OXFORD, Mississippi – Andrea Hickerson, an internationally renowned researcher, educator and administrator, joins the University of Mississippi as Dean of the School of Journalism and New Media.
His appointment was approved Thursday, May 19, by the Mississippi Board of Trustees of Higher Education at its May meeting. Hickerson begins his new role on July 1.
“Dr. Hickerson’s appointment is the result of a national search that has attracted a pool of highly qualified candidates,” said Noel Wilkin, UM provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs.
“She is an accomplished researcher and scholar with experience in the study of deepfakes and the issues facing international journalism. She is also an accomplished administrator, having served as director of two universities.
Hickerson received his bachelor’s degree in journalism and international relations from Syracuse University, a master’s degree in journalism and Middle Eastern studies from the University of Texas, and a Ph.D. in communications from the University of Washington. She has served on the faculty of Rochester Institute of Technology and the University of South Carolina, where she most recently served as director of the USC School of Journalism and Mass Communications, associate dean, and professor.
The new dean said she was “incredibly positive” about coming to Ole Miss and Oxford.
“I love the setting and the story,” Hickerson said. “When I toured the campus, I felt a great energy and sense of mission from the faculty, staff, and students. I was enthused by their willingness to serve local, state, creatively national and international.
“I thought we would make great partners and thrive on each other.”
Hickerson has served as Principal Investigator, Co-Principal Investigator, or Investigator on projects generating more than $1.6 million in external support from a variety of sources, including the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of State, philanthropic foundations, and information networks.
Hickerson said his vision for the school is to prepare students to meet the challenges of evolving modern media and cope with ongoing technological and social changes.
“A short-term goal is to improve the things the school already excels at, like supporting student media and creating experiential learning opportunities,” Hickerson said. “To do this, I look forward to listening and learning from faculty, staff, students and alumni.
“I am particularly interested in traveling across the state and meeting current and future employers of school graduates.”
Hickerson said she wanted to make sure the school prepares students not just for their first job, but for successful careers.
“I also want to make sure that our curriculum is well balanced and has the right mix of skills and thematic courses so that our students can engage critically with key challenges facing citizens, especially those whose backgrounds differ from their own,” she said.
A long-term goal of Hickerson is to increase the school’s expertise and reputation as a center for community problem-solving.
“One of my pet peeves is when people equate communication with ‘messaging’ or ‘advertising,'” she said. “Communication experts know how to listen, assess needs, contribute to solutions and communicate them to public and private audiences.”
The new dean said she hopes to achieve this goal by prioritizing interdisciplinary projects and research, including grant-funded research.
“I also hope to achieve this through proactive programming and events that bring experts from different fields to campus to solve a common problem,” she said. “I believe that if we take this initiative – creating spaces to discuss and iterate on issues – we can easily demonstrate our centrality in its analysis and solutions.”
A prolific researcher, Hickerson has authored or co-authored more than 25 peer-reviewed journal articles. She has also been a speaker at numerous national and international conferences, as well as professional development training seminars.
Hickerson said her strong background in research — particularly on deepfakes, manipulated videos that can make it look like someone said something they didn’t — should come in particularly handy in her new role. .
“My research on deepfakes is an example of how journalism and communication can be combined with areas of technology to solve a community problem; in this case, fighting misinformation,” she said.
“Furthermore, at the heart of this research is a deep commitment to verification. However we challenge and create new forms of storytelling, verification is a central practice. »
Hickerson has received numerous awards for his teaching and research. One of the most significant to her is the University of South Carolina Educational Foundation Research Award from Professional Schools. The award is one of the university’s highest research honors.
“I’m proud of it because it recognized the impact of my research on the overall practice of journalism, particularly through my research on deepfakes,” she said.
Hickerson said she was also proud and grateful to have been invited to serve on the advisory board for a community-based research project regarding media representations of race in Rochester, New York, in 2018 and again in 2021.
“The results of these reports and the community members who worked on them taught me to question traditional journalism practices and reconsider who tells community stories and even the definition of ‘newsworthy'” , she said.
His professional activities and memberships include the editorial board of the Global Media and Diaspora Journalthe Association for Journalism and Mass Communication Educationthe International Communications Associationand the International Media and Communication Research Association.
Hickerson will bring “a thoughtful and measured approach” to the school’s leadership, said Debora Rae Wenger, acting dean and professor of journalism.
“Dr. Hickerson seems to think deeply about the role that communication can, does, and should play in our society,” Wenger said. unfolds around the credibility, authenticity and accuracy of news and information in today’s technological world.”
Wenger said Hickerson’s plans to take the time she needs to understand the culture and strategically build on past successes are also welcome.
“It’s always good to bring in new ideas and new approaches,” she said. “Dr. Hickerson’s previous administrative experience provides us with the opportunity to grow.
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