The Clemson University College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences has appointed interim chairs for the Department of Communication and the Department of Public Health Sciences.
Bryan Denham, Campbell Professor of Sports Communication, will assume the role of interim chair for the Department of Communication. Denham has previously served as chair of the department and on July 1 will assume the role held by Joseph Mazer, who has been named dean of the University of Tennessee College of Communication and Information.
Denham said he looks to continue the department’s positive momentum on campus as well as in the discipline. He said he will prioritize attracting top students to the communication and sports communication programs as well as the department’s graduate program. He looks forward to aiding in searches for faculty that will only further improve those programs.
The department houses the Social Media Listening Center, Clemson student media and the Clemson Debate Society, all of which have enjoyed an increased presence for students over the last few years, according to Denham. He also pointed to faculty research in political misinformation and an ever-changing media landscape as vital areas in which Clemson has enjoyed a prominent role over the last few years on the national stage.
“When a department is on an upward trajectory, an interim chair should work to continue that,” Denham said. “I think that our field is a dynamic one, with applications ranging from interpersonal and organizational communication to sports and health communication. There are so many possibilities, and I am happy to say that our faculty members are playing lead roles in all of them from a scholarly and teaching perspective.”
Denham has served as faculty at Clemson and has held the Campbell Professorship in Sports Communication since 1999. His areas of study include media portrayals of substance use in sport and society, policy and health aspects of substance use, social science theory and quantitative research methods. For more information on Denham, click here.
Sarah Griffin will assume the role of interim chair for the Department of Public Health Sciences. She has previously served as professor and graduate programs director and on July 1 will assume the role previously held by Ronald Gimbel, who now serves as full-time director of Clemson Rural Health, the organizing framework for Clemson’s statewide health service delivery and prevention efforts housed in the College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences.
Griffin said the department is poised for unprecedented growth as student and public attention becomes increasingly focused on public health issues. She said the COVID-19 pandemic showed just how valuable the field is, and she is proud to say that her department truly stepped up to help Clemson, the state and the nation face the pandemic on a variety of fronts.
“I have always known that our department had amazing students, faculty and staff, but this became even more evident as we adjusted to the pandemic,” Griffin said. “Everyone in our department truly stepped up and used our knowledge to help solve problems related to the pandemic and our entire University’s response to it, from accurate messaging to the public to statistical modeling that helped inform policy decisions within Clemson and beyond it. Our students got to see in real time how our discipline works in a time of great need.”
Griffin plans to focus on returning the department’s operations to as close to normal as possible and providing space for faculty, staff and students to “reconnect” after a stressful 18 months. She hopes to increase undergraduate involvement in departmental research and increase the attention faculty and students get among the campus community. She hopes to help set the course for where the department can be in the next five to 10 years, position it for growth and capitalize on existing strengths.
Griffin has served as faculty at Clemson for over 15 years. Her research is focused on eliminating health disparities by researching the efficacy and effectiveness of complex interventions to improve health. Most of this work is related to preventing obesity and other chronic diseases among those at highest risk. Griffin is the principal investigator of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-funded High Obesity Prevention initiative, which is implemented through partnership with cooperative extension in three rural South Carolina counties among other research endeavors in progress. For more information on Griffin, click here.
Leslie Hossfeld, dean of the College, said she is sure both Denham and Griffin will continue the important work of their respective departments, the value of which has become even more evident in the face of the unprecedented challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. She said both departments have helped lead the way in shaping how our local, state and national communities have approached the information and health challenges inherent to a pandemic.
“The faculty and staff in these departments, like all of those in our college, have proven just how important our disciplines are on every level: the personal, societal and global,” Hossfeld said. “I know that the proven track records in leadership, scholarship and teaching of Drs. Denham and Griffin will allow their departments to continue contributing meaningfully to our college mission of building people and communities.”
The Department of Communication and the Department of Public Health Sciences are part of the University’s College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences (CBSHS). Established in July 2016, CBSHS is a 21st-century, land-grant college that combines work in seven disciplines – Communication; Nursing; Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management; Political Science; Psychology; Public Health Sciences; Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice – to further its mission of “building people and communities” in South Carolina and beyond.
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