Interim no more: Murphy awarded role of communications dean full-time


Jeff Carrion

Alexandra Murphy (left) will assume the role of dean for DePaul’s College of Communication on April 1.

When Alexandra Murphy, interim dean for the College of Communication, was named as acting dean in 2018, it was only supposed to be for two months.

Four years later, she was still in the position.

“During that time, I got to know our staff and faculty in a different capacity,” Murphy said. “I really came to understand how talented and committed they all are. I have had a chance to have a birds-eye view and see different aspects of the college and to get to know students from a broad range of majors.”

On March 7, Provost Salma Ghanem named Murphy as the dean of the College of Communication. She will assume the role on April 1.

Ghanem said Murphy was a great candidate for this role, especially after all the work she has done for the college over the past several years.

“I would like to see Lexa continue to build on the great work of the college which is truly impressive,” Ghanem said.

Ghanem is not the only one who thinks Murphy has done great work for the college. One of the students Murphy has gotten to know over the past couple of years, Konner Gross, a graduate student in the Public Relations and Advertising (PRAD) program who completed his undergraduate degree at DePaul, said Murphy has been a “solid leader” for the college. Gross said Murphy has also been in the role of dean for his entire college career.

Gross said he remembers receiving an at-home “welcome to DePaul” video from Murphy when he committed to DePaul in 2020. 

I recall thinking, as a nervous Covid graduate, that if all professors were as kind and welcoming as Lexa that I would have no problem acclimating to DePaul once I moved there from my small town,” Gross said. “I’m happy to say that this was the case.”

To Gross, her compassion has not left since she began the role.

“I think that says a lot about a person,” Gross said. “How kind they are to others, whether they know them or not. From the moment I was admitted to DePaul, up to present day, I’ve only ever known Dean Murphy to be sweet. Her leadership style understanding and kind, yet action-oriented also reflects this.”

While Murphy has characteristics that students, faculty and staff like, personality traits are not enough. As the student body evolves and the industries the students are going into change, the college must also adapt. Because of this, there are demands from students like Gross that are going to take longer to change than just a couple of months of action. 

Gross said he would like to see the College of Communication continue its national recognition and program development through “curriculum adjustments to account for future shifts the field will see as a result of AI, an influx of accessible communication, converged media, [and] mis/disinformation.” He said he would also like to see some “blurring of the lines between PR, advertising, and marketing.” 

“This is beneficial for both the university and the students as they enter their careers with top-notch skills and knowledge,” Gross said.

Two other focus points Gross suggested Murphy and the College of Communication leaders should tune into are emphasizing the importance of recruiting diverse, industry-leading faculty and staff and encouraging bonds between students, faculty, and staff from different backgrounds and programs. He said this attempt to make college camaraderie and pride stronger would be in the best interest of everyone in the college.

“As dean, Lexa will be at the forefront of advancing these things and garnering support from the University to do so effectively and efficiently,” Gross said. “I think Lexa’s challenge moving forward will be to maintain the great pace the college is currently running at while simultaneously evolving and planning for its future effectively. I’m confident that she can do so.”

While Murphy has expressed that she will hear out concerns from the students, staff and faculty, she has some goals set up that already overlap with what people within the college want. 

She said a big focus of hers is diversifying “our faculty and staff to better match our student demographic as much as possible” while keeping the university budget in mind. 

She also wants to be able to get to know the students in the college on an individual level.

“I have the great honor of shaking the hands of students who are graduating as they walk across the stage,” Murphy said. “One goal I have is to make sure that is not the first time I meet them.” 

Her third goal is to increase the amount of resources that are available to support students, staff and faculty.

“I hope to maximize internal resources and develop more external sources of support for our students through scholarships, paid research opportunities, more support for student organizations, and our communication centers and labs,” Murphy said.

While her goals will have to be addressed over the next couple of years, Murphy said she is looking forward to being able to change more in the college now that she has a scheduled amount of time she can plan for.

“I have told people that my time as an acting and then interim dean was a lot like an airport delay when they tell you it will be 30 minutes delayed, then they say it will be another hour, and then another two hours,” Murphy said. “Then, by the time you take off, it has been eight hours. If you would have known that in the beginning, you might have used your time differently … But now, knowing that there is a set amount of time ahead of us, we can really plan.”

As the planning begins and Murphy steps into her role as dean, she encourages students to come to her weekly “Caffeine with the Dean” forum sessions. These are drop-in sessions that anyone within the college can attend. They are offered both via Zoom and in person.

Gross said he strongly encourages students attending these sessions and making outreach so they can connect with Murphy and get more done within the college.

“Administration including Dean Murphy is here to serve students and the university community,” Gross said. “Use this to your advantage. Get to know the dean. Come to her Caffeine with the Dean sessions. Join an SGA committee. Voice your thoughts and opinions because our leaders do actually care. You get out what you put into these relationships, so don’t be coy.”

Murphy’s next “Caffeine with the Dean” session is during the first week of the spring quarter. For students who would like to connect with Murphy, they can email her at [email protected]