Communications dean focused on progress
Mark Contreras started as the dean of the School of Communications in August 2017
Contreras was attracted to Quinnipiac due to the university’s serious communications program, as well as its history of entrepeneurship.
As the media industry continues to evolve, Contreras plans to do everything he can to make the School of Communications as successful as possible.
A new SoC advisory board was announced and implemented under the guidance of Contreras.
The Advisory Board cements connections to leading companies in all aspects of communications, allowing students and faculty to expand their professional networks, according to Contreras.
Contreras has many years of experience in media, from being the CEO of Calkins Media, to publisher of The Times Leader in Pennsylvania.
Calkins Media was a company that included newspapers and digital media sites from New Jersey to Florida.
At Calkins Media, Contreras oversaw the development of various digital media platforms. These include Roku, Amazon Fire and Apple TV. Increasing online presence and accessibility through these devices allows small media brands to extend themselves, and also allowed Calkins to serve as a developer of these technologies for other media companies.
Contreras is currently on the board of directors for media groups such as Woodward Communications, Futuro Media and GFR Media. He also served as senior vice president for Pulitzer Inc., as senior vice president of the E.W. Scripps Company, and as president and publisher of The Times Leader.
Contreras moved from Minnesota to Chicago, where he grew up and attended the University of Chicago. He explained that his time at the University of Chicago was an eye opening experience.
“[The University of Chicago] opened up the aperture of my life,” Contreras said.
He also attended Harvard Business School and was a member of the judiciary committee staff in Washington D.C.
While he is still in the media industry, Contreras now holds his first position in academia. He plans to use his experience to help students in the School of Communications.
Assistant Professor of Journalism Kevin Convey is impressed by Dean Contreras’ work.
“He arrived with a clear vision of what he wanted to achieve and has set about doing it,” Convey said.
Contreras brought an emphasis on fundraising and engaging industry professionals and potential donors in the school’s work. This promises to yield more jobs, internships and perhaps scholarships for students, according to Convey.
“He’s done this while deeply involving the faculty and the school’s chairs in the planning, the decision-making and the mission,” Convery said.
Secretary of the Dean of the School of Communications Angela Bird believes that Dean Contreras is energetic and motivated to help the SoC grow and succeed.
“With his contacts in the industry and the creation of our new Advisory Board, along with many additional initiatives, our students will be well served under his leadership,” Bird said.
Assistant Professor of Journalism Ben Bogardus said that it is always exciting to get new leadership in the school.
“New people provide a new set of ideas and the possibility of new programs or initiatives to hopefully improve the quality of education we offer our students,” Bogardus said.
In terms of the future, Contreras asks how we will define success five years down the road.
If enrollment increases, facilities are the best of the best, partnerships are created and faculty and staff look toward the future, he can look back and say with confidence that success was achieved, according to Contreras.
For Contreras, being a Dean is a way for him to express his love for and commitment to journalism. His commitment lies in supporting student success.
He feels as though his main role as Dean is to “loosely guide the definition of success.”
Contreras hopes to foster a friendly, open and helpful environment in the School of Communications, as well as reenergize alumni engagement.
As a former digital media professional, Contreras shed light to what skills are important for communications students to have.
“Students need to know design, they need to know video, they need to know storytelling,” he said.
In addition to the Advisory Board, Contreras plans to substitute teach during the Spring 2018 semester, and teach full-time during the Fall 2018 semester.
Contreras is also in the process of developing a communications class that will focus on non-economic forces of the media industry. The class will help remind students of the truth and courage in journalism.
Contreras recognizes and appreciates the commitment of faculty, staff and students in the School of Communications.
As many students in the School of Communications are involved on campus, Contreras notes the high level of creativity he sees in his students. He hopes that if students have ideas, they will bring them to him because involvement has to be organic, according to Contreras.
Contreras explained that he would rather have involvement spread out across campus, and across Hamden, rather than having a surplus of students focus on a single task.
In terms of his own involvement, Contreras wants to get engaged with student media and offer advice where he is invited.
He wishes to continue the recognition of the School of Communications’ competence in the field.
For students, Contreras believes that learning to manage time, and not waiting to think about the future are both keys to success in the field of communications.