Harrington School Interim Director Norbert Mundorf plans for more interdisciplinary projects during his leadership. Photo by Ethan Pellegrino.

Interim Director of the Harrington School of Communication and Media Studies at the University of Rhode Island Norbert Mundorf hopes to keep a focus on interdisciplinary learning in his new leadership position.

Mundorf has been teaching at the University since 1987 with interests including media, global and online communication, sustainability and behavior. Since taking over as the interim director, he has been busy planning new projects and lecture series for the Harrington School, in addition to adjusting student learning due to COVID-related changes. 

“The Harrington School continues to develop in positive ways, including multiple lecture series, collaborations between the different units in the school and a proposed core curriculum for the Harrington School,” Justin Wyatt, associate director of the Harrington School, said.

Mundorf has been hard at work since starting this position in June to keep students engaged, prepare them for the workforce and put a focus on interdisciplinary learning, which affects both faculty and students.

Since transitioning to his role as interim director, Mundorf has helped implement many of the new virtual lecture series for students.

“Since June, we have had two Taricani lectures and have another one coming up,” Mundorf said. “We have had a number of virtual lectures that have been surprisingly successful. We had a Christine Amanpour lecture with Ed Yong which was very successful with very good feedback and a very high number of participants. So, we have done a lot in terms of public outreach.”

The third installment in the Tarcani Lecture Series is called “Truth and Justice: Journalism Post Election,” which will be held virtually on Nov. 10.

Along with virtual lectures, another adjustment that has been made due to COVID is a shift to remote learning. Mundorf said that the Harrington School has had a pretty smooth transition to virtual instruction because many classes were held online prior to the pandemic. Because of the Harrington School’s strong background in virtual learning, their faculty has been able to help other departments set up virtual lectures and provide resources and expertise to other departments across the University.

Mundorf has been very focused on his push for interdisciplinary learning across departments and helping students prepare for the new virtual workforce. 

“Our goal is to make communication more prevalent across the University,” Mundorf said. “A lot of my work is interdisciplinary. We have more faculty working with other departments and colleges, especially now because there is a lot of interest in science communication and environmental communication. We are also developing other areas like public relations and business communications. A lot of this work now is to help students develop strong communication skills especially in an online environment.” 

In the new virtual environment we are now living in, communication has taken on a different role. There are a lot of organizations that are going to stick with the virtual model and Mundorf wants to help students prepare for the virtual model which seems to be here to stay.    

One of Mundorf’s main goals is to increase the visibility of the Harrington School. This includes making Ranger Hall a more centralized location for Harrington students through renovations that will begin early next year. Mundorf believes that students identify a lot more with the Harrington School than they did years ago, and he wants to build on that idea.  

“I think brand recognition is an important thing,” Mundorf said. “Especially for our students. And it’s not just about recognizing the Harrington School, but it means that students start thinking of themselves as studying communications and media.”

He believes that the interdisciplinary work the school is doing is highly important.

“You may be a journalism student, but you’ll also be taking a film class, or writing class or public relations class,” Mundorf said.

Mundorf wants students of the Harrington School to be well rounded learners while also helping them acknowledge that they are studying more than just what their major might be.  

“We are trying to promote this interdisciplinary thinking, not only with the faculty research, which is an important goal for me, but also as far as what the students do,” Mundorf said.