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Perloff to step down from his current position as the director of School of Communication in June

After six years of achievement and challenges Dr. Richard Perloff will pass the torch to Dr. George Ray

By Lara de Alba

March 3, 2011

After being at the helm of the School of Communication as its director for six years, Prof. Richard Perloff will be stepping down on June 30. Dr. George Ray will step in his shoes on July 1.

Dr. Perloff has been teaching at Cleveland State for 32 years and is a nationally recognized scholar in the fields of persuasion and political communication. His special expertise lies in the theory of third-person effect. The theory explains how the media audiences perceive that the media has more influence on others than themselves.

Dr. Perloff was appointed as the first director of the School of Communication in 2004 when the university upgraded the communication department to a school within the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS).

Prior to becoming the director of the school, he served as chair of the communication department from 2003-2004 and as director of the Communication Research Center from 1986-1990 and 1993-1995.

The communication department at CSU was established in 1972. For many years, the only major offered was in general communication.

Communication is a multi-faceted discipline with sub-fields and administrators felt that there was a need for students to specialize in one of the areas.

The communication faculty, under the leadership of Prof. Sue Hill, the then chairperson of the department, impressed this upon the university to upgrade the department to a school.

Under Dr. Perloff’s leadership, the school has witnessed many changes and has undergone progressive transformations. The school expanded its programs from one general communication major and offered its students the option to pick from three additional specialized majors in Communication Management, Film and Digital Media and Journalism and Promotional Communication in 2005.

On the graduate level, the Master’s program has also evolved. The school now has a new 4+1 program in strategic communication beginning spring 2011 and a doctoral track in communication in partnership with the Levin College of Urban Studies, which currently has three students.

Perloff’s career as the director of the school has been a period of some major achievements, challenges and learning moments.

“You learn how to put your own things aside and work for a cause that’s greater than yourself,” Dr. Perloff said. “It means helping people to succeed and uplifting them.”

Dr. Perloff admits it hasn’t always been easy. Money is not as much in abundance due to the current economic situation, which has hindered upgrading the technology being used for journalism and digital media courses. His hopes for the future are that funds will become available for equipment, editing labs, more faculty and professional presence in the school.

Financial limitations are not the only problem Dr. Perloff has faced. Problem-solving in all areas is an integral part of being the school director. Serving the faculty, students and administration can be gratifying but also difficult when the needs conflict and cannot be granted.

“As much as you want to help, you also have to respect the rules,” Dr. Perloff said. “But it’s not something I liked to do. It’s not fun to say no."

Of the other goals that were not accomplished, Dr. Perloff wishes to have gotten the school named after someone of prominence, which was difficult to attain. First lady of television news Dorothy Fuldheim was mentioned as a potential namesake.

Despite the challenges, Dr. Perloff maintains that his time as Director has mostly been upbeat and he is proud to have been the founding director of the school.

“[My greatest achievement has been] helping to make the School of Communication a stronger, more vital place and using persuasion to achieve this,” he said.

What came as a great surprise in the job was interacting with a variety of students. Dr. Perloff recalls one of his warmest experiences speaking to Communication 101 classes almost every term from 2009-2011 about the communication field to welcome new students. He recalls hearing their applause at the end established a warm connection between himself and the students because he hadn’t expected such an earnest response.

“I thought the job would be more technical and about the budget,” said Perloff. “But it is more people-oriented and about the students. Working on my PhD or as a writer, I didn’t ever think I would be doing this [working with students].”

Dr. Gregory Sadlek, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, will remember Dr. Perloff’s time as director for his energy and drive as well as his highly productive nature.

“We’ll miss him when he steps down, but I’m sure he’ll be even more productive,” Sadlek said.

As for the future of the School of Communication, Sadlek believes that Dr. George Ray is the right person to fill Dr. Perloff’s shoes.

“[Dr. Ray] is a very calm, considerate leader and I’m sure will not miss a beat. I think the faculty will like working with him,” he said.

Dr. Ray has a bright outlook for the school and feels honored to become the next director. He also wants to promote the graduate programs and increase enrollment within the school. For now, many plans are on hold until the budget details are released in March.
He plans to continue the student advocacy during his time as director.

“My door truly will be open as much as possible,” he said. “I would love to meet with students. I hope if they have any advising concerns that they quickly bring them to my attention.”

While Dr. Perloff has expressed that he will miss being director, he believes it is “healthy to have someone else in the role.” He has strong hopes for the future of the school, and leaves his successor with some advice.

“It’s good to start out with idealism and idyllic dreams,” he said. “Roll up your shirt sleeves, take us in new directions, try to pursue different kinds of dreams and spread our wings. Be idealistic and look for ways to make things happen that people don’t think can happen.”

Dean Sadlek also has words of wisdom for the incoming director.

“Work in dialogue with the faculty and keep the student experience as the foremost goal as you lead the school forward,” said Sadlek. “Keep engaged learning at the forefront.”

After stepping down from the position, Dr. Perloff will go on sabbatical for the fall 2011 semester to work on a political persuasion book. He will resume teaching two courses in the spring 2012 semester.