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2021 Leadership Team of The College of Humanities and Social Sciences

 The new structure and leadership of CHaSS

USU’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHaSS) recently reorganized its academic departments. On July 1, 2021, it launched four new units: the Department of Communication Studies and Philosophy, the Department of Social Work, the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and the Department of World Languages and Cultures.

The new departments replaced the Department of Sociology, Social Work and Anthropology and the Department of Languages, Philosophy and Communication Studies. They will join CHaSS’s existing units: the Department of English, the Department of History, the Department of Journalism and Communication, and the Department of Political Science.

“The four new departments replace two departments that were among the largest academic units at USU,” said Joseph Ward, Dean of CHaSS. “We expect these new arrangements will make it much easier for students to access the administrative help they need.”

With so many large changes, we have provided an overview of our new college leadership team. In-depth spotlights on each new member is below.

Joe Ward

Joseph P. Ward

Prior to joining Utah State University in 2016, Joseph Ward was a professor and Chair of History at the University of Mississippi. A specialist in the society and culture of England during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Ward has published more than a dozen journal articles and book chapters, and he is an author or editor of eight books.

Associate Deans

Rebecca Walton

Rebecca Walton
Associate Dean

Rebecca Walton, a newly appointed associate dean, has been at USU since 2011 and teaches classes in document design and research methods. Her classes allow students to partner with clients off campus and do real work with these clients.

Rebecca Walton Spotlight

CHris Gonzalez

Christopher González
Associate Dean

González has been at USU since 2017. He teaches classes in American literature, underrepresented literature, and Latinx literature across media forms such as novels, film, television, and comic books. He is also a founding director of the Latinx Cultural Center.

Christopher González Spotlight

Matt Sanders

Matt Sanders
Executive Associate Dean

Matt Sanders, an associate professor of communication studies, has served as associate dean of undergrad studies since 2016. His research interests include nonprofit organizations, and social change, leadership, and the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Eric Reither

Eric Reither
Associate Dean

Eric Reither, a professor of sociology, has served as associate dean of research since 2016. As a social demographer and epidemiologist by trade, Reither has developed a research program that emphasizes health, sleep, and obesity.

New Departments and Department Heads

Jess Lucero

Jess Lucero | Dept. Head
Social Work

Jess Lucero is heading the new Department of Social Work. She has been at USU since 2012 and teaches community-engaged courses in research methods and community practice. Since 2016, she has served as director of USU’s Logan MSW program and is actively involved in the community.

Jess Lucero Spotlight

Judson Finley

Judson Finley | Dept. Head
Sociology & Anthropology

A new department has been made that combines both sociology and anthropology. The new department head, Judson Finley, has been at USU since 2012 and specializes in geoarchaeology and the cultural history of the West

Judson Finley Spotlight

David Richter

David Richter | Dept. Head
World Languages & Cultures

David Richter, who now heads the new Department of World Languages & Cultures, has been at USU since 2009 and teaches courses on literature and culture from Spain. His research focuses on the literature and culture from the 20th and 21st century with a focus on modern poetry and Spanish graphic narratives.

David Richter Spotlight

Jen Peeples

Jennifer Peeples | Dept. Head
Communication Studies & Philosophy

Jennifer Peeples, head of the new Department of Communication Studies and Philosophy, has been at USU for 21 years and teaches a variety of communication studies classes. Her current research focuses on the use of visual rhetoric in environmental concerns.

Jennifer Peeples Spotlight

Suan Polster

Susan Polster | Dept. Head
Journalism and Communication

Susan Polster has taken over as head of the Department of Journalism in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences. Polster earned her master’s degree from Utah State University and her Ph.D. from the University of Wyoming. She teaches classes in mass communication, communication graphics, and media writing and production.

Susan Polster Spotlight

Ravi Gupta

Ravi Gupta | Dept. Head

Ravi Gupta has taken over as head of the Department of History. Gupta has been at USU since 2013 and has served as the director of the religious studies program at USU. He teaches a variety of classes in world religions, from Intro to Religious Studies to in-depth classes on Hinduism.

Ravi Gupta Spotlight

Phebe Jensen

Phebe Jensen | Dept. Head

Phebe Jensen became the permanent head of the Department of English on July 1, after having served as interim department head since April 2020. Jensen is an early modernist who has published books and articles on Shakespeare, the English Reformation and early modern science and medicine, and loves introducing students to poetry, drama and especially Shakespeare.

Phebe Jensen Spotlight

Tony Peacock

Tony Peacock | Dept. Head
Political Science

Tony Peacock has served as department head for the past 8 years. Currently, he is gearing up to get things back to normal this fall. While there are still online and Zoom classes being offered, the number of in-person classes offered is being increased.

Political Science Spotlight

Centers and Affiliates

Molly Cannon

Molly Boeka Cannon
Mountain West Center

Molly Boeka Cannon has taken the place of director of the Mountain West Center, serving jointly as the director of the Museum of Anthropology. She has been at USU since 2010 and has previously worked on Mountain West Center projects.

Spotlight on Molly Boeka Cannon


Jeannie Johnson

Jeannie Johnson
Center for Anticipatory Intelligence

Jeannie Johnson serves as director of USU's groundbreaking Center for Anticipatory Intelligence, an interdisciplinary nexus fusing expertise in national security and geopolitics with cutting-edge instruction in cyber threats, data analytics, and emergent technology. The CAI facilitates academic programs—the nation's first undergraduate minor in anticipatory intelligence and a forthcoming Graduate Certificate in Anticipatory Intelligence—and engages in research and partnerships with government and industry. 

Christy Glass

Christy Glass
Center for Intersectional Gender Studies & Research

Christy Glass joined USU in 2005 after completing her Ph.D. in sociology at Yale University. Her research and teaching focus on gender and racial/ethnic inequalities in work organizations. Her current research analyzes the factors that shape the careers of women and minority professionals.

tom williams and kerry Bringhurst

Kerry Bringhurst & Tom Williams
Co-Directors Utah Public Radio 

Kerry and Tom are USU graduates and longtime Utah Public Radio broadcasters. Kerry graduated from USU with a degree in broadcast journalism and worked at UPR until 1993, when she left to become a full-time mother. Kerry returned to the station in 2007. Tom, who has been working at the station full-time since 1996, graduated with a B.A. in liberal arts and a master’s degree in business administration. Tom is currently the host of UPR’s Access Utah.