University Leadership

Get to know Virginia McDermott, dean of the School of Communication

McDermott discusses incorporating social justice into teaching and building community through communications.

July 9, 2024

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Virginia McDermott, the new dean of the School of Communication, comes to Loyola University Chicago after 14 years at High Point University in North Carolina and is settling in Chicago with her two dogs. She’s looking forward to living close to the University and being part of the community. Community, she says, is essential to communication. 

McDermott has been studying communication for more than three decades and still finds it “endlessly fascinating.”  Here, she talks about why diversity is so important in the field of communication, what role social justice plays, and developments she’s excited about in the School of Communication.   

What are you looking forward to about coming to Loyola and living in Chicago? 

I’ve been in Chicago for a month and I already love it. I think I’m even going to love the weather—but ask me again in February! It’s such a friendly, approachable place with people who are really welcoming. 

I wanted to live close to the University because one of the things I’m looking forward to is being part of such a vibrant community that not only works to serve its students but works to serve the greater community. That means as dean, I should be available and present. 

What drew you to the field of communication? 

In college, I was taking a class looking at mass communication and the impact of communication on society, and it fascinated me. Communication and community come from the same thing, and it’s understanding how to leverage communication to build better community, to make people adjust better in certain circumstances, to use media and messages to inform people about better ways to do things. 

I’ve studied it for 35 years, and it is still endlessly fascinating to me because it changes all the time. Figuring out how to bring people together, to me, is one of the most important things we can do. 

What are you looking forward to as dean? 

I’m really impressed with the diversity of approaches in the School. In communication, there are fundamental similarities about what we do and how we do it. But the School of Communication at Loyola is diverse in their methods, their approaches, their ideologies—and that really creates a rich environment, where not only do students benefit from all those different perspectives and backgrounds, but they benefit in collaboration.  

In just my short time here, I’ve sat in on conversations with people who are filmmakers and digital designers and in strategic communication, and you see that synergy among them. And right now, when media is changing so quickly and AI is coming in and content creation is literally different from month to month, having that diversity is so exciting. 

For you, how does the social justice aspect of the mission fit into teaching communication? 

I’ll go back to the fact that it’s about community. Our world needs to look the way the real world looks. So, the social justice mission of Loyola is vitally important because we need all perspectives coming together, and we need all people. 

It’s that thing you always hear: that we need to build a bigger table because the world is better when we have more people sharing their perspectives. Most universities will talk about diversity of perspective and creating pathways of access for everybody, but Loyola walks the walk. 

I’m the first person in my family to graduate from high school, so I know how important it is for there to be access and opportunity and for someone to reach their hand out to show someone a pathway that they haven’t seen before.  

Are there things going on right now at Loyola that you’re particularly excited about? 

In the School of Communication, I’m excited that they’ve rejuvenated some of their grant activities and connecting with researchers across the University and across the city. That sense of connection really enriches what we do. I think the very best communication research is interdisciplinary—it’s when you bring your skill set to someone else and partner with their skill set to ask interesting questions, and the faculty are doing that. 

What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

I have two super cute dogs, a golden retriever named Daisy and a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Edie, and I’ve spent 14 years working in dog rescue trying to figure out how to create safer environments for our pets. 

 

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