The Robertson School will have a new interim director come this summer, according to an email sent to its faculty and students.
Marcus Messner, who is currently the school’s deputy director, will replace outgoing director Hong Cheng, who will become dean of the School of Communication at Loyola University, Chicago.
Messner will take the director position a year after starting as associate director in July 2018. He is a professor in the school’s journalism sequence, teaching courses on social media and global communications.
Messner, who has more than 110 academic publications, studies the effects of social media on journalism, public relations and health communications. In 2014, he was recognized with the Excellence in Scholarship Award by the College of Humanities and Sciences. The College also recognized him as an Eminent Scholar in 2018. VCU gave him the Distinguished Teaching Award in 2017.
As the Robertson School’s associate director, Messner helped launched the school’s speaker series, which began in January. The series included a panel on journalists covering Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s blackface scandals in February; a discussion on female empowerment by Martin Agency CEO Kirstin Cavallo and a talk on the weaponization of social media.
Cheng joined the School of Mass Communication in 2013 as the director. He came to Richmond from Ohio University, where he was a tenured professor in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Before that, he was a professor at Bradley University.
“It has been a very pleasant and productive experience to team up with you since last July,” Cheng wrote to Messner in an email to faculty and students. “While I will continue to fulfill my duties faithfully until my departure in the summer, I will do everything I could to facilitate the transition. I know you will continue to shine in this new role.”
Cheng has a doctoral degree in mass communications from Pennsylvania State University and a master’s in international journalism from Shanghai International Studies University. He will begin his duties at Loyola in July, replacing Acting Dean John Slania.
“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Hong Cheng for his exceptional leadership of the Robertson School during the last six years, ” wrote Montserrat Fuentes, dean of the College of Humanities and Sciences, in the email. “I know that the Robertson School will continue to excel under Marcus’s leadership and will carry Hong’s legacy.”