Mari Castañeda Named Dean of Commonwealth Honors College at UMass Amherst

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AMHERST, Mass. – Mari Castañeda, professor of communication and associate dean for equity and inclusion in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences,has been named the new dean of the Commonwealth Honors College at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She will start Sept. 1.

The appointment was made by John J. McCarthy, provost and senior vice chancellor for academic affairs. Castañeda succeeds Dean Gretchen Gerzina, who is returning to the faculty after five years of distinguished service.

McCarthy said, “Mari Castañeda’s prior involvement with Commonwealth Honors College, her accomplishments as a faculty member and administrator, and her commitment to our mission and values have prepared her very well indeed for this crucial leadership role. The other deans and I look forward to working with her.”

In her 19 years with UMass Amherst, Castañeda has served as a Chancellor’s Leadership Fellow and chair of communication. Over the course of her career, she has received the UMass President’s Public Service Award, Distinguished Outreach Award, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Teaching Award, and Lilly Fellowship. Both the state Senate and House of Representatives have issued citations and a commendation to Castañeda in recognition of her engaged scholarship and community contributions. In 2010, she became the first director of diversity advancement in any college on campus.

As dean of the Commonwealth Honors College, she plans to promote the college’s role as a centerpiece of the university’s rising national stature and a destination of choice for academically accomplished students. Castañeda believes education is a pathway to liberation and as a first generation honors college student herself, she hopes to “engage with students with great enthusiasm and appreciation.”

Castañeda’s research interests include the study of digital media and telecommunication policy, Latina/ethnic media studies, and academic cultures of care. Her work promotes engaged scholarship and aims to address inequality, power, community voices and the role of intersectionalities in shaping media and cultural spaces.

Her engaged scholarship has appeared in multiple journals/monographs, and she has published three co-edited books: “Telenovelas and Soap Operas in the Digital Age: Global Industries and New Audiences”; “Mothers in Academia”; and “Civic Engagement in Latinx Communities: Learning from Social Justice Partnerships in Action.”

A 1993 graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, Castañeda earned a B.A. in communications, with an emphasis on Chicana/Latino studies and media studies. She has a Ph.D. in communication from the University of California, San Diego.