After a two-month long search for a new vice provost for engagement and land grant affairs, Provost Michael Kotlikoff selected Prof. Katherine McComas, Ph.D. ’00, communication, for the position on Thursday.
McComas is “grateful for the confidence” Kotlikoff showed in her with his offer and is “eager to build” on the work of predecessor Prof. Judy Appleton, veterinary medicine, when she assumes the position July 1st. Appleton served in the position for five years.
Prior to being selected as a vice provost, McComas served as the chair of the department of communication from 2013-2017, a position she feels has helped her leadership abilities by giving her “insights into administration, budgets, and planning and executing a vision.”
“Professor McComas was a strong visionary leader of our department, and those skills will benefit her in the new role. As department chair one of her greatest strengths was the ability to make thoughtful decisions based on sound data and getting input from everyone. It was always clear that the health of the department was her top priority,” current department of communication chair Prof. Poppy McLeod told The Sun in an email.
McComas’ new responsibilities after July 1st will include serving as an advocate for Cornell’s role as the land-grant university for New York state, monitoring and collaborating on responses to the governor’s initiatives in higher education and economic development, and representing the university’s four contract colleges in dealings with the State University of New York.
She will also be charged with overseeing Cornell’s ROTC program as well as providing support for Cornell’s military community, the university’s Office of Engagement Initiatives — including Engaged Cornell — and the Cornell Prison Education Program.
“I’ve got a lot to learn to get up to speed on the position, so my number one goal is taking a deep dive into the responsibilities and meeting with people so that I can hit the ground running on July 1,” she said.
As a communication professor, McComas’ research and teaching focuses on risk communication and community engagement. McComas feels the topic of her research has “provided some useful insights into the importance of communication and public engagement in ways that translate well into this new role.”
“Over the years, I’ve grown through the ranks of the professoriate and had opportunities to meet and learn from many different people across campus in various colleges and roles,” McComas said. “Every new responsibility has offered an opportunity to meet new and interesting people and learn about their views, passions, and experiences.”
McComas has spent the last academic year on sabbatical to focus on “understanding ways to increase the impact of social science research at the policy level.” She spent the fall in London working at King’s College Centre for Risk Management.
According to the University, McComas has been a part of the communication department department since 2003, when she joined as an assistant professor.
She graduated with degrees in French and advertising from the University of Missouri, Columbia in 1990, received her M.A. in international relations and communications from Boston University in 1994 and completed her Ph.D. in communication at Cornell in 2000.
“I do have a long-standing love for Cornell and its Land Grant mission, cultivated since I attended as a Ph.D. student,” McComas said. “As someone who cares a lot about engagement and making a difference in people’s lives, I’m proud to be both a product of this great University as well as do my part in ensuring that others can benefit from it as well.”