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New Dean Takes the Helm at the College of Communications

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Update: Adding to her many recognitions, Dean Sha was awarded the D. Parke Gibson Pioneer Award by the Public Relations Society of America in October 2019 for increasing awareness about public relations in multicultural communities.

When asked what attracted her to the deanship for the College of Communications at Cal State Fullerton, Bey-Ling Sha admits that the college (to paraphrase a line from “Jerry Maguire”) had her at “advancing a democratic society.”

“The College of Communications has a stated commitment to advancing a democratic society,” she explains. “I am passionate about the idea that public education and public journalism are the foundational pillars of a democratic society, and I really wanted to be a part of that.”

Sha is eager to talk about democracy’s role, meaning and importance in today’s world.

“This notion of democracy and how we all can work collectively to advance a democratic society is really important for our national zeitgeist currently. It always has been, but now more urgently than before.”

She’s already thinking about how the college might advance a democratic society outside of the classroom and is looking forward to exploring the possibilities with faculty and staff.

“With the collection of expertise in its faculty and academic departments, this college is really poised to lead important conversations about what democracy means to us as a community — not just locally or regionally, but even nationally and internationally. And there’s no better moment than now to be having those conversations.”

I am passionate about the idea that public education and public journalism are the foundational pillars of a democratic society.

Sha’s impressive resume suggests that she could make this happen. She has received numerous accolades for her work, including

  • 2018-19 Distinguished Faculty Award from the San Diego State University Alumni Association;
  • 2012 Outstanding Educator of the Year from the Public Relations Society of America;
  • outstanding faculty awards from San Diego State (2007) and the University of Maryland (2004); and
  • 2010 Outstanding Advocacy Award from the National PTA® for her pro bono advocacy work in K-12 public education.

In 2018, the Institute for Public Relations recognized Sha with the lifetime achievement Pathfinder Award for her research at the intersection of identity and public relations. She defines public relations as building relationships between organizations and the people who are affected by organizational decisions, and cultural identity as a person’s sense of belonging to different groups.

She explains, “My research at the intersection of these two areas basically asks three questions: Who are we as organizations? Who are we as organizational stakeholders? And who are we as people who practice public relations?”

As co-author of one of the leading public relations textbooks and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Public Relations Research, Sha has helped define, and continues to shape, the study and practice of public relations.

Instead of focusing on her success, however, Sha stresses the importance of how our day-to-day choices impact others. She’s a huge fan of Harry Potter, and readily quotes Hogwarts’ Headmaster Dumbledore: “It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

Sha strives to improve the world around her, and to better herself with lifelong learning. She’s excited to finally become a Titan, noting that she had hoped to attend CSUF for her master’s degree, but circumstances led her instead to the University of Maryland at College Park for a master’s in journalism and a doctorate in mass communication.

“Better late than never,” she quips.

Sha also holds bachelor’s degrees in French and communication from Purdue University. Before arriving at CSUF on July 1, she spent 15 years at San Diego State University, where she was most recently the acting associate dean of the College of Professional Studies and Fine Arts, after serving for five years as director of the School of Journalism and Media Studies.