Institute of Communications Research mission to advance interdisciplinary research continues with new leadership

The Institute of Communications Research (ICR), the doctoral program housed within the College of Media, will usher in the academic year with new leadership. This fall, Sela Sar, associate professor of advertising, and Mira Sotirovic, associate professor of journalism and Karin and Folke Dovring Scholar in Propaganda, will serve as the ICR’s director and director of graduate studies, respectively. Both appointments are three-year terms.

“It was clear from faculty and student feedback to the ICR Executive Committee that the top criteria for the next director were that he or she be an active scholar, seen as fair and ecumenical, and with a record of working well across department lines,” said College of Media Dean Tracy Sulkin. “Sela was widely commended as a colleague who possesses all of these attributes.”

The ICR, established in 1947, has been a pioneer in interdisciplinary research methods and training within communication and media studies. The program’s faculty members from across the College of Media closely advise PhD students with their projects, dissertations, and grants, and instruct the graduate-level classes offered through the institute. Some faculty also help to organize and offer graduate courses in their home departments within the College of Media. 

“The ICR provides a high-quality interdisciplinary PhD program that attracts excellent students,” Sar said. “Its PhD program plays a crucial role in the institute’s prestige and reputation.”

Sela SarAs the ICR director, Sar (pictured at right) hopes to better define the role within ICR, as the institute’s by-laws make the director’s role “vague and unclear” compared to the director of graduate studies role.  

“I have discussed this issue with Dean Sulkin and we think that the director’s primary focus should be on advancing interdisciplinary research and teaching in the ICR, and to help further build out a governance structure of the ICR that could facilitate broad and engaged participation,” Sar said. 

“I am hoping to facilitate and enhance collaborative interdisciplinary research and an enhanced teaching environment for the PhD students and ICR faculty through organizing symposiums, colloquia, brown bags, sponsoring research talks and presentations by ICR faculty and students, and by faculty from other colleges and universities,” Sar added. “Also, I hope to continue fostering research and professional development opportunities for PhD students by organizing workshops on research, teaching, and future career development plans for grad students.”

Because the field of media/communication is facing a rapidly changing technological environment, Sar hopes to maintain resources that will serve the interests of both students and faculty by developing research collaboratives and partnerships with other institutes across campus. One of many ways to achieve these goals, he said, is to create a connection center within the University of Illinois for students and faculty who have similar research interests and topics to share resources for collaborative research projects and/or grants.  

“My long-term goal is to work on synchronizing the ICR’s goals and objectives with those of the College of Media, once all are finalized,” he said. He also plans to work with the college’s advancement office to help fundraise for ICR.

Sar is currently the associate editor of the International Journal of Advertising and was a vice president of the American Academy of Advertising. He served as the director of graduate studies for the Charles H. Sandage Department of Advertising for four years, in addition to serving on other committees at the departmental, college, and university level. He was also a member of the Graduate College Executive Committee, where his primary role was to advise the Graduate College dean on policy matters.

Sotirovic said she is enthusiastic about assuming the responsibilities as ICR’s director of graduate studies. Her primary role will be administrative responsibility for graduate student affairs, the doctoral program, and its students. This includes the doctoral application and admission process, and monitoring students’ progress. 

“I am grateful and pleased for her willingness to serve in this important role,” Sar said. “Mira’s administrative and research experiences will contribute to her DGS role. She has taught Doctoral Proseminar 1 several times and is teaching it again this fall.”

Sotirovic will work collaboratively with Sar and the College of Media department heads on course scheduling and more. She will chair the PhD Admissions Committee and will serve as an ex officio member of the program Evaluation Committee, the ICR Executive Committee, and the COM Curriculum Committee. 

—Kimberly Belser, Communications and Marketing Intern