College scooped on own new dean announcement


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Eric Freedman, who is currently dean of the James L. Knight School of Communication at Queens University in Charolotte, accepted the position of Dean of the School of Media Arts at Columbia, beginning July 1

The weekend before an official announcement was to be made to the Columbia community, news broke unexpectedly Feb. 26 that Eric Freedman, a finalist for the position of dean of the School of Media Arts, had been offered and accepted the post. Freedman made his candidacy presentation at Columbia on Feb. 10.

Freedman, 50, who is currently dean of the James L. Knight School of Communication at Queens University of Charlotte in North Carolina, will take on his role at Columbia effective July 1, according to a Feb. 26 article published by the Charlotte Observer. 

“[Columbia’s] School of Media Arts is one of the nation’s most dynamic media arts programs, and I look forward to the opportunity of continuing my work with faculty, students, staff and the greater community as we build academic programs that serve our students, engage and sustain the community and raise the profile of the institution,” Freedman said in a Feb. 26 emailed statement to The Chronicle.

The Observer announced Freedman’s employment prematurely, before members of the Columbia search committee charged with selecting the new dean were notified, according to college spokeswoman Cara Birch.

Birch said the committee voted unanimously to offer Freedman the position. Suzanne Blum Malley, senior associate provost and chair of the search committee, knew he had accepted the offer Friday afternoon, but because she is currently out of town, she could not communicate his response to the rest of the committee.

According to Birch, the college intended to announce during the week of Feb. 29 that Constantin Rasinariu, the current interim dean of the School of Media Arts, will fulfill his role through the end of the Spring 2016 Semester, after which point Freedman will take over.

The Chronicle learned of the news Feb. 26 in researching Freedman’s background.

Senior Vice President and Provost Stan Wearden said Freedman is an exceptional candidate, praising his interdisciplinary view of media arts and strong professional network.

“We’re really delighted that Eric will be joining the Columbia team,” Wearden said. “I hope that he’ll be a strong leader, have a clear vision of the future of media arts for Columbia and be able to build strong relationships with the professional community in Chicago.”

According to the Queens website, Freedman earned his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, as well as a master’s degree in art history from the University of California’s School of Fine Arts. Prior to his current position, Freedman served as the assistant dean of the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters at Florida Atlantic University.

As reported Feb. 15 by The Chronicle, if appointed, Freedman said if given this job, he planned to build on connections with various entrepreneurial sectors and industries as well as strengthen cross-departmental collaboration.

“The combination of disciplinary interests in the School of Media Arts aligns with my dual investments as a media artist and scholar,” Freedman said in the email. “Columbia is uniquely positioned to connect in meaningful ways to the greater Chicago area, and one of my goals is to build strategic partnerships that shape the city into a connected learning laboratory.”

Freedman said he also looks forward to working with students while at Columbia, some of whom he met with at a Q&A session during his Feb. 10 visit.

“I will officially join the Columbia community on July 1, but I will be reaching out to the campus population months ahead,” Freedman said in the statement. “I encourage students to connect with me via social media to start the conversation.”