AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas at Austin has selected Rachel Davis Mersey to serve as the next dean of the Moody College of Communication. Mersey, who holds the Everett D. Collier Centennial Chair in the School of Journalism and Media at UT, begins her new appointment effective immediately.
Mersey has served as interim dean of the Moody College since June, taking on the role as the college celebrated the 10th anniversary of the transformational gift from the Moody Foundation that gave it its name. As interim dean, Mersey has focused on partnering across the University to build impactful programming and opportunities for students and prioritizing culture and wellness among the college community.
“Communication is a driving force across so much of societal change today, with no sign of slowing down,” said President Jay Hartzell. “With Rachel as the Moody College of Communication’s new dean, we have a dynamic leader with the experience, knowledge and ability to adapt and innovate so the college remains at the forefront of the varied fields it encompasses. Moreover, her leadership and the work of the college will enable our students to communicate in ways that will change the world.”
Mersey joined the Moody College in 2020 as the associate dean for research. Initially drawn to the University because of its tremendous public service mission to provide world-class education, creative output and research in support of the state of Texas, she has been a champion for research and creative projects during her tenure. In her role as associate dean, she also expanded the research office to address the funding and support needs of professional-track faculty members, where she provided hands-on guidance and oversaw year-over-year growth in both research proposals and expenditures.
Before joining the UT faculty, Mersey was a professor and the associate dean for research in the Medill School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing Communications at Northwestern University. She also held courtesy appointments in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and School of Education and Social Policy and was a fellow at the Northwestern Institute for Policy Research.
“I am deeply humbled to be selected to serve as the next dean of the Moody College of Communication as we look forward to the exciting future of our changing media industries,” Mersey said. “In my months as interim dean, I’ve seen up close all the ways our exceptional students, world-class faculty, dedicated staff and esteemed alumni are impacting our fields. I am honored to work with such talented and creative people.”
With her more than 15 years of experience in higher education and academic administration, along with her work as a professional journalist at The Arizona Republic, Mersey brings a passion for connecting scholarship and professional practice into impactful grant-funded research and initiatives, as well as providing students with unrivaled educational and professional preparation for changing media industries.
“During her time as interim dean, Rachel has led the Moody College of Communication with wisdom, vigor and a steady, strategic hand,” said Sharon L. Wood, executive vice president and provost. “Moving forward, she will continue to strengthen Moody’s position as one of the nation’s top destinations for education, research and innovation in communication.”
Mersey earned a Ph.D. in mass communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University and a bachelor’s degree in communications from Wake Forest University.
Her research explores news engagement, emerging technologies in journalism and media, and using artificial intelligence to bring transparency to court records. She is also the author of two successful books, “Can Journalism Be Saved? Rediscovering America’s Appetite for News,” which looks at whether America’s local news efforts can be recast as community-driven initiatives, and “Mobile Disruptions in the Middle East,” which examines opportunities for mobile media innovations in the Gulf states.
Mersey is the seventh dean of the Moody College, succeeding Jay Bernhardt, who held the position since 2016 and now serves as president of Emerson College. In his eight years as dean, Bernhardt raised more than $130 million, hired 50 tenured and tenure-track faculty members and increased the college’s four-year graduation rate to more than 80%, the second highest of any UT college or school.