Rachel Davis Mersey named Interim Dean of Moody College
Moody College of Communication Associate Dean for Research Rachel Davis Mersey has been appointed Interim Dean of the Moody College, effective June 1. She will serve in the role until a permanent dean is selected through a comprehensive national search process.
Moody College Dean Jay Bernhardt has served as dean since 2016. His last day is May 31, after which he will join Emerson College as its 13th President.
“I am honored to be the steward of the Moody College of Communication, continuing Dean Bernhardt’s commitment to growing the strength and impact of the college,” said Mersey, who holds the Jesse H. Jones Centennial Professorship in the School of Journalism and Media. “He has set us up to attract an outstanding permanent dean to lead our next chapter.”
In addition to her teaching, research, and leadership roles at UT, Mersey has spent the last two years collaborating with Meta to build the company’s platform for research partnerships. With experience as a professional journalist at The Arizona Republic and more than a decade in higher education and academic administration, she brings a passion for connecting scholarship and professional practice into impactful grant-funded research and initiatives.
Mersey was recruited to UT by Dean Bernhardt after serving at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, and Integrated Marketing Communications since 2008, most recently as Associate Dean for Research and Professor.
“I was excited about the opportunity to return to a public institution like UT because of the depth and breadth of its commitment to the state through education, service, creative output and research,” Mersey said of her decision to come to Moody College in 2020. “Moody is huge in scale and impact, that’s the beauty of what happens when world-class students, staff, faculty and alumni come together.”
Previously, Mersey served as the Executive Director of the Media Leadership Center and was a Fellow at the Northwestern Institute for Policy Research. Her research looks at psychographic communities and the impacts of effective message dissemination. She is also the author of two successful books — the first exploring whether America’s local news efforts could be recast as community-driven initiatives and the second examining opportunities for mobile media innovations in the Gulf states. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a master’s degree from Northwestern University and a bachelor’s degree from Wake Forest University.
“I want to thank Dr. Mersey for her enthusiasm to lead Moody College until our national search for a permanent dean concludes,” UT Austin Executive Vice President and Provost Sharon Wood said. “She cares deeply about the Moody College community, and I am confident she will continue to advance the college’s strategic plan priorities through the leadership transition.”
During Bernhardt's eight years as dean, he has helped to advance the college as one of the nation’s top institutions for communication, speech, media and entertainment. Under his leadership, the college has hired almost 40 new tenured and tenure-track faculty members, added more than 20 full-time professional-track faculty member, and increased its four-year graduation rate to more than 80%. Moody College has also launched innovative new academic programs, raised more than $150 million to support its students and mission and developed numerous centers and institutes, such as the Center for Health Communication, the Texas Immersive Institute, the Arthur M. Blank Center for Stuttering Education and Research and many more.