Spectra recently had the pleasure of interviewing Bryan Crable, Founding Dean of the College of Human Development, Culture, and Media at Seton Hall University. Dr. Crable, who holds a Ph.D. in communication and philosophy, boasts more than 25 years of experience in academia. Throughout his career, he has consistently stressed the significance of employing effective communication to address social justice concerns. In our conversation, Dr. Crable shared insights about his background, experience as Chair of the Department at Villanova University, and vision for the newly established College at Seton Hall University. Read on for the full interview.
Spectra: Tell our readers a little about your background.
Dr. Crable: I graduated from Purdue with a Ph.D. in communication and philosophy, and Purdue has an interdisciplinary Ph.D. program. The program cultivated an interdisciplinarity or transdisciplinary approach in my thinking. Still, my grounding in communication and rhetorical studies emphasized the importance of understanding our work as not just abstract but as committed to issues of social justice and social life. For example, how can we use what we understand about communication to engage the problems of our social world?
That was the approach I brought when I started on the tenure track at Villanova University, where I served as a faculty member for 25 years. Then, I served as chair of my department for seven years and helped grow and develop the department into one that won some NCA awards and developed a graduate program. Toward the end of my time as chair, I wrote a proposal for the Waterhouse Family Institute for the Study of Communication in Society, and we presented it to a donor. Lawrence Waterhouse agreed to give us $3 million to launch this institute.
My idea was to build on the work I'd done as department chair and the work I've been doing in my career to develop something that wouldn't be Villanova-centric or internally focused. Instead, it would create something that would be a resource for the communication discipline. It also reinforces that communication scholars and professional students have a critical role to play in the work toward social justice.
After the launch of the Waterhouse Family Institute for the Study of Communication in Society (WFI) in 2010, I dedicated the next 13 years to building and expanding the institute's national presence. The WFI held several events involving scholars from across the country, celebrating the institute's mission to advance social justice. We also established a partnership with the NCA to sponsor the conference's opening session, starting in 2016 with the Social Justice Exchange and continuing in 2017 with the Lyrical Justice Poetry Slam.
After the successful experience with the WFI, I became interested in bringing the same level of program building experience and commitment to advancing social justice to the academic world. I applied for and was selected as the founding dean of the newly established College of Human Development, Culture, and Media at Seton Hall University. The college is a combination of two previously existing colleges at Seton Hall, namely, the College of Communication in the Arts and the College of Education. I am excited about the prospects of the new college and how the various departments can work together to address issues of social justice.
Spectra: Where do you see things going in the field of communications or with the students that you're going to be working with?
Dr. Crable: The pandemic has had a profound impact on society as a whole, and we have not yet fully grappled with its after-effects. The pandemic has caused a great deal of trauma for individuals and communities, and the widespread adoption of new technologies has further complicated the situation. There is a need for the communication industry to address these issues head-on, to help individuals and communities navigate this new landscape, and to use their skills to promote healing and positive change.
It's critical to understand how the after-effects of the pandemic are continuing to impact our society, including in the workplace. There is currently a lot of conflict in the workplace as different generations try to navigate the changing landscape, including the introduction of new technologies. It's important to understand these technologies and their impact on society, including the data they generate and their potential effects on individuals and communities. It's essential for communication professionals to engage with these issues and to use their skills to promote positive change and address social justice issues.
Spectra: What types of courses will be in the college? Can you talk about the overall curriculum and what your goals are this first year?
Dr. Crable: My main goal for the first year of the newly established College of Human Development, Culture, and Media is to focus on the integration and unification of the different departments within the college. As the college is still in its infancy, there is much work to be done to ensure that the different departments can work together seamlessly. I'm excited about the potential for interdisciplinary collaboration among the various departments within the college. For example, there are opportunities for communication and the arts to connect with educational studies, including elementary and secondary teachers, educational leadership, and higher education leadership. I'm particularly interested in exploring issues of inclusivity and diversity, which are of great concern to those in the communication field.
There are a number of potential interconnections between the various disciplines within the College of Human Development, Culture, and Media. For example, new media technologies can be effectively utilized in therapy, and that there is a strong connection between art and therapy. I want to explore these connections and foster interdisciplinary collaboration within the college. I'm also excited about the potential for collaboration with the National Communication Association (NCA), particularly in the context of K-12 education. The college's combination of educational studies, educational leadership, and communication make us a valuable partner for NCA in addressing the K-12 aspect of their membership and disciplinary focus. By bringing people from different disciplines together, the college can work collaboratively with colleagues across the country to create innovative solutions to complex problems.