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Women in Higher Education: 7 Deans Share Insights and Advice

University Leaders Reflect on Women’s History Month
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Dean Bey-Ling Sha
Bey-Ling Sha

College of Communications
Dean Bey-Ling Sha

Bey-Ling Sha joined Cal State Fullerton as dean in 2019. Since then, she has worked to further the College of Communications’ commitment to advancing a democratic society, both inside and outside of the classroom.

Sha sees democracy — true democracy — as inextricably linked to social justice, racial equity and networks of relationships that keep individuals connected to their communities. Toward that end of strengthening individual and organizational relationships, she has helped define and shape the study and practice of public relations as co-author of one of the leading public relations textbooks and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Public Relations Research. She has been honored numerous times for her advocacy, teaching and scholarship, including the D. Parke Gibson Pioneer Award from the Public Relations Society of America, and the lifetime achievement Pathfinder Award from the Institute for Public Relations.

Before CSUF, Sha spent 15 years in leadership and faculty roles at San Diego State University. She has a doctorate in mass communication from the University of Maryland at College Park. 

What is your college doing to advance women to become leaders in the field of communications?  

The College of Communications has numerous student organizations, all of which offer opportunities for leadership. I have personally engaged with many female students to learn about their experiences and interests, often connecting them to women leaders in my professional networks so that they can begin to cultivate additional mentors in the field of communications. 

What is one example of an obstacle you personally encountered — and overcame?

As a young faculty member, I had a senior, male colleague tell me not to “waste my time” getting involved with my children’s school PTA, because he felt that I needed to “focus” on research so that I could earn tenure. The obstacles here were not just my colleague’s opinions and his voting power in the tenure process, but also my own conflicted feelings. In the end, I chose to embrace my multifaceted identities, which include being a mother. I joined the PTA and served as president for two years. In that position, the most important thing I did was train dozens of mom volunteers to become PTA leaders. Also, I organized a district-wide activism campaign that saved $10 million in magnet-school busing from being cut from the budget. I’m proud to say that some of the elementary school children who worked on that campaign with me so long ago have now become activist leaders in their own communities, on a variety of social, political and environmental issues. The bottom line is that disempowerment can be overcome, and empowerment can be contagious! 

What advice do you have for female students in your college? 

Persist. Be true to yourself and your own values. Be receptive to input and mentoring, while ultimately taking responsibility for your own decisions. Reach out for help when you need it, and reach back to help others when you can. Build up other women, because more important than being “the first” is not being “the last” woman in any position of influence.

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