Honors College appoints new Dean

Mari Castañeda is a professor of communication and associate dean for equity and inclusion


(Collegian file photo)

By Irina Costache, Assistant News Editor

The Commonwealth Honors College has named Mari Castañeda as their new dean. They announced her appointment in a Jan. 9 press release. She will begin her role on Sept. 1.

Castañeda currently works as a professor of communication and associate dean for equity and inclusion in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. She also became the first director of diversity advancement for any of the colleges on campus in 2010.

Castañeda’s appointment follows the stepping down of Dean Gretchen Gerzina, who has chosen to return to a faculty position after five years of service.

According to Shiera Goff, associate director of news and media relations, a search committee to fill the position was named in October of 2019 by the provost. “Castañeda was the top choice over all of the candidates,” she said.

John J. McCarthy, provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs, made the appointment, saying in the press release, “Mari Castañeda’s prior involvement with Commonwealth Honors College, her accomplishments as a faculty member and administrator, and her commitment to our mission and values have prepared her very well indeed for this crucial leadership role.”

Castañeda has worked at UMass for 19 years. Prior to taking on her new role as incoming dean, she served at a Chancellor’s Leadership Fellow and chair of communication. She is a recipient of the UMass President’s Public Service Award, Distinguished Outreach Award, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Teaching Award and Lilly Fellowship.

She is also affiliated with the Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latina/o Studies and the Department of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies.

In her faculty biography, Castañeda said “My work promotes engaged scholarship and aims to address inequality, power, community voices and the role of intersectionalities in shaping media and cultural spaces.”

The press release states that Castañeda is a first-generation honors college student and believes that “education is a pathway to liberation.” Once taking on the role, one of her goals is to promote the Commonwealth Honors College’s role “as a centerpiece of the University’s rising national stature and a destination of choice for academically accomplished students.”

Castañeda is also a 1993 graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles where she earned her B.A. in communications with an emphasis on Chicana/Latino studies and media studies. In 2000, she earned her Ph.D. in communications with an emphasis on political economy, cultural studies, ethnic studies and global media from the University of California, San Diego.

The incoming dean was not able to be reached for comment, however she stated in the press release that she hopes to “engage with students with great enthusiasm and appreciation” in her new role.

Irina Costache can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter at @irinaacostache.