From the Dean

Dean Jonathan Potter

Jonathan Potter is the dean of the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. Potter received his B.A. from the University of Liverpool in Psychology, a M.A. from the University of Surrey in Philosophy of Science, and his D.Phil from the University of York in Sociology.

Potter is an enthusiastic and engaged educator with a distinguished record in administration. He enjoys a highly regarded international reputation for his research at the intersection of communication, psychology, and language. Much of his recent work is done in collaboration with Alexa Hepburn, research professor of communication at SC&I.

Potter’s expertise is in the field of discourse studies, with a particular focus on the way careful analyses of interaction can be a route to understanding and reworking basic psychological questions. Throughout his research career, Potter has addressed fundamental issues of theory and method, as well as made substantial research contributions in the area of language and racism, the operation of helplines, and the role of cognition in communication. His 1987 book developed a new way of thinking about social psychology – highlighting the role of communication – and continues to be widely influential. His 1996 book on epistemics, fact construction, and communication also has been heavily cited. He has sat on more than 20 editorial boards, is a member of the Academy of Social Sciences, a Fellow of the International Communication Association, a Fellow of the British Psychological Society, and an honorary fellow of the TAOS Institute.

As Dean Potter begins his 7th year at Rutgers, he recently spoke to the new Ph.D. cohort on his time at Rutgers and what makes SC&I special.

"I was attracted here from the UK by Rutgers’ reputation, by its dynamic mix of disciplines, by its extraordinary location nestled between New York City and Philadelphia, and its wonderful faculty. Rutgers is huge and it's complicated.  It is in something of a state of flux – but SC&I is a successful school sitting in the middle of that flux.  It is full of energy - there are always talks going on across the school, or the university more broadly, often by our own faculty or exciting visitors. 

Rutgers underwent one of the largest mergers in the history of higher education anywhere in the world just before I arrived, joining an enormous and still growing medical system.  This has thrown up many opportunities and one or two challenges.  I really enjoy the intensity of our scholarship, the creativity of our teaching, and the warm collegiality of faculty and staff.  Rutgers is a big place – but it is not impersonal – everyone wants to help. 

We have a very strong multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary and trans-disciplinary ethos.  There are many faculty who would be equally at home in any of our three departments.  And we have close ties across campus with a range of other schools – public health, Cancer Institute of New Jersey, statistics and computer science, women’s and gender studies, for example. The dynamism that comes from the relation between the different units, disciplines, perspectives, and topic areas means that we are seriously reshaping the nature of our disciplines and at the same time we are developing new forms of social engagement picking up from the strong social justice focus across the school. We have a vibrant research ecology of Centers, groups, clusters, labs."