Hobbs Named Founding Director of URI Harrington School of Communication and Media

Renee Hobbs has accepted a position as the Founding Director of the Harrington School of Communication and Media at the University of Rhode Island, beginning January 1, 2012. The Media Education Lab continues its work with support from Lab Manager Jonathan Friesem. Watch this video to learn more about the new school:

KINGSTON, R.I. – October 11, 2011 – The University of Rhode Island has appointed a national authority on media literacy education to head its new Harrington School of Communication and Media. Renee Hobbs, a professor of communications in Temple University’s Department of Broadcasting, Telecommunication and Mass Media, and School of Communications and Theater, will begin her new duties at URI Jan. 1, 2012. She has been visiting the Kingston campus regularly to meet with members of the Harrington School advisory board.

Hobbs is the first director of the Harrington School at URI, which brings together departments and programs in journalism, film/media, communication studies, public relations, writing and rhetoric and a graduate program in library and information science.

The school was established in 2008 through a $5.5 million donation by Richard J. Harrington, former president and chief executive officer of Thomson/Reuters, and a 1973 College of Business Administration graduate of URI, and his wife, Jean.

Winifred E. Brownell, dean of URI’s College of Arts Sciences, the academic home of the Harrington School, said the University is delighted to welcome an outstanding educator, researcher and innovator.

“Dr. Hobbs is going to establish the Harrington School as a school of national and international distinction,” Brownell said. “We will develop strategic international links and partnerships because we are preparing our students for careers in the state, nation and the world. Renee Hobbs has the knowledge, the expertise and creative entrepreneurial ideas to create a transformative model here at URI, across the nation and throughout the world.”

Harrington said he is impressed with Hobbs’ breadth of experience in a constantly changing arena. “Dr. Hobbs brings a comprehensive and innovative approach to this position, which is critical in today’s world because communication and information technologies are all about mind boggling change. She is talking about building something here that will have a great impact at URI and society as a whole.”

Hobbs is a leading authority on media literacy education in the United States. She established the Harvard Institute on Media Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the first national program of teacher professional development in media literacy in the United States.

In Philadelphia, Hobbs developed Powerful Voices for Kids, a university-school partnership that offers a comprehensive digital and media literacy program for children and young people in kindergarten through high school.

Hobbs said she was attracted to URI because it represents a chance to start a new school of communications that builds on the cornerstones of journalism, communication studies, public relations and film/media and brings in writing and rhetoric and library sciences.

“This approach changes the whole ballgame for students who want to be communicators in the 21st century,” Hobbs said. “Communication schools can no longer be confined to narrow vocational disciplines if they want to serve students well. We are going to create a new vision that means thinking about students as global communicators and citizens in a democracy.”

She emphasized that verbal and written expression will remain at the heart of the Harrington School.

“But because of the generosity of Dick Harrington, students will be able to strengthen their abilities to use digital and social media tools, including video production and gaming. By including library science in our school, students gain the ability to recognize what is reliable, what are the good sources. Anyone can type in keywords on Google, but there are a wide range of more sophisticated tools that students need to be able to use well.”

Hobbs has also published extensively, with her latest book, Digital and Media Literacy: Connecting Culture and Classroom, offering portraits of how secondary educators integrate critical thinking and communication skills across the curriculum. She is also the co-editor of the Journal for Media Literacy Education, an open-access, peer-reviewed journal.

Hobbs earned her doctor of education degree in human development from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, a master of arts in communication from the University of Michigan, and a bachelor of arts in English literature and film/video studies from the University of Michigan.