May 29, 2024

Comm Arts Chair Dr. Gardner Announces Departure For Messiah

Photo Courtesy of Dr. Gardner

Donning her power color of pink covered by a crisp black blazer and topped by her signature bob, Dr. Gardner walks into Senior Seminar. She can be seen enthusiastically encouraging students on their final CASE presentations with a glimmer in her eye, proudly congratulating JUD talk speakers, or conversing with fellow Communication Arts faculty in Barrington after class.  

On an April 5th email to the Communication Arts, Art, and Theater Department, Dr. Christine Gardner announced her acceptance of an invitation to become Provost at Messiah University, leaving her role as chair of the Department of Communication Arts, Theater, and Art at Gordon College. Gardner has taught at Gordon since 2017 and became department chair several years later, spending seven and a half years at Gordon. She is also Dean of the School of Graduate Professional and Extended Studies, a role she has served in since September. This involves overseeing several graduate programs, dual enrollment, the Global Education office and summer terms.  

Compared to her role as professor, her two roles as Dean and Department chair have involved more late-night emails, along with the opportunity to meet with faculty colleagues more, which she called “one of the joys of the job.” Dr. Chris Underation described her as “kind, helpful and collegial”, a sentiment echoed by students and faculty alike. The winners of this year’s JUD Talk, Jason Asonye ‘25, Abby Durkin ‘24 and Sarah McDonald ‘24, thanked her in their LinkedIn posts. 

Being department chair is “a lot of fun,” though some may perceive the role of department chair as “overworked or boring,” because it seems primarily administrative. “I found it to be a creative role where I get to work alongside my colleagues, rethinking the curriculum, welcoming prospective students, and hosting events to celebrate achievements,” said Gardner, calling it “an inspiring and creative role.” These roles still involve teaching and working with faculty colleagues. The deanship involves overseeing programs and strategic thinking in terms of innovation.  

When asked about the most rewarding part of the job, Dr. Gardner said, “definitely the people, my colleagues and my students.” She admires the level of “expertise, professionalism, creativity and all-around brain power.” While she acknowledged missing students and colleagues “makes an announcement like this really bittersweet,” she is confident of the Lord’s leading.  

During her time at Gordon, the biggest challenge for many professors and faculty, herself included, has been the pandemic. Despite the obvious difficulties faced by all departments on campus, the pandemic opened new ways to think about how we learn together, especially in Communication Arts. These included “harnessing digital communication to transcend time and space,” while also allowing us to “continue in the virtual community.”  

Gardner declined to share her favorite class that she has taught, comparing it to asking a parent to pick their favorite child. She has enjoyed various aspects of different classes. Having taught Perspectives on Communication in the past, she relished the opportunity of introducing Communication Arts majors and non-majors to different communication theories and helping them gain awareness of communication in our daily lives. However, she has particularly enjoyed teaching Senior Seminar for Communication Arts Majors. This year is particularly unique, as she noted in her email, because she gets to “walk with the seniors.” 

Dr. Gardner has dedicated her entire career towards thinking and examining the ways in which communication shapes our understanding of reality. Coaching JUD Talks participants on their 10-minute speeches, Dr. Gardner recognized and emphasized the power of words, and how the act of naming can transform how we interact with a person or situation. Further, this process involves reframing how we understand the power of communication, inevitably influencing how we perceive reality. 

Dr. Gardner wants Communication Arts professors and colleagues to remember “how much I value them and love Gordon College. I think this department is on the cusp of something great and exciting.” During her time at Gordon, the Communication Arts Department has announced new minors and concentrations, including Journalism, Graphic Design Studio, 3D Design Studio, Fine Arts Studio, Musical Theatre, Sports Media, Strategic Communication, and Communication and Culture. The department has also announced new concentrations, including Digital Media and Strategic Communication, and the introduction of new co-curricular programs like JUD Talks, Last Scot Standing, and the Fine Arts Salon under Dr. Gardner’s leadership. 

The year 2024 also marks a period of transition for the Department. Most recently, President Mike Hammond announced the creation of the Adams School of Music and the Arts, which merges the Music, Arts, Communication Arts, and Theatre, along with the Orvieto Study abroad program. This aims to create more opportunities for collaboration and partnership across the arts at Gordon. While she will admittedly miss the faculty and students at Gordon, Gardner will be “down the road, cheering them on,” as provost at Messiah University. She looks forward to the opportunity to grow in her leadership. Messiah University is a sister institution of Gordon. 

Dr. Gardner was in charge of hiring many of the Communication Arts faculty, including Professor Morgan and Dr. Underation in 2020, and Dr. Yoo in 2018. Underation started working at Gordon in 2020 in the midst of the pandemic. “The program has finally started to move in the direction that she talked about when I got here,” he said, which included modernizing the program and including more content creation. Underation’s favorite part of working with Gardner has been “the sideline discussions we have had,” as he is always one of the first professors in Barrington. The two talk about everything from Gordon, life in general, to conferences and trends in communication education and enjoy “bouncing ideas off one another.” 

Underation recounted how Gardner called after his Gordon interview, talking an hour over the phone. “Listening to her talk about her hopes for the program, and what she was looking for in the position” was something which rarely happens in higher education, Underation noted. This was a “good and useful discussion” and Underation is “glad that it was still a part of Gordon’s DNA.” 

Assistant Communication Arts Professor Dr. Yoo has worked alongside Gardner for six years. Gardner was her “go-to person when I had questions about teaching,” and a “mentor and leader.” Yoo’s transition to Gordon marked her first-time teaching at a Christian liberal arts college, which “has its own culture and approach” compared to the private, secular colleges and universities where she taught in the past. She said Gardner welcomed and answered her questions on faith integration and learning and has been very supportive of her research and career department. The two share parenting tips and how to balance work and life, especially as working moms. “I’ll miss everything,” Yoo said, holding back tears. 

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