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Merrill College

Merrill College Names Sarah Oates, Alexander Pyles and Linda Steiner Associate Deans in New Leadership Structure

New Merrill College Leadership: Sarah Oates, Alexander Pyles and Linda Steiner

COLLEGE PARK — The University of Maryland’s Philip Merrill College of Journalism has named faculty members Dr. Sarah Oates, Alexander Pyles and Dr. Linda Steiner its new associate deans, Dean Rafael Lorente announced.

Oates is promoted to associate dean for research, Pyles will serve as associate dean for academic affairs and Steiner becomes associate dean for faculty affairs. All three will continue to teach at the college.

As associate dean for research, Oates will boost the college’s research enterprise, and help integrate research and practice to reinvent journalism.

As associate dean for academic affairs, Pyles will lead the master’s program, build on the college’s flexible and innovative curriculum, maintain academic integrity, and develop partnerships inside and outside the university.

As associate dean for faculty affairs — including tenure/tenure track and professional track faculty — Steiner will help onboard new faculty, manage faculty mentoring, and improve faculty and staff development.

“Our new leadership structure is integral to Merrill College’s mission to help reinvent journalism for a better, more sustainable future, and for a stronger, more inclusive democracy,” Lorente said. “In collaboration with our existing team, our new associate deans will elevate our teaching, research and practice, further cementing Merrill College’s position as one of America’s best and most indispensable journalism programs.” 

Oates, Merrill professor and senior scholar, has served as the college’s research director. In 2021, Oates became the first Merrill College faculty member to be honored as a UMD Distinguished Scholar-Teacher. She also is an affiliate professor in the UMD College of Information Studies and UMD Department of Communication. 

Oates is a political communication scholar, publishing on topics ranging from Russian propaganda to election coverage in the United States. She has a Ph.D. in Political Science from Emory University and was a Fulbright Scholar. Before her academic career, Oates was a journalist who published in outlets ranging from the Orlando Sentinel to The New York Times. 

Pyles, an award-winning journalist and teacher, has directed the school’s Capital News Service audience engagement bureau since joining the full-time faculty in 2019, after teaching part-time at the college since 2012. A 2011 Merrill master’s alum, Pyles previously served as the college’s communications manager. He also has served as chair of the college’s curriculum committee and has been an editor on the award-winning journalism produced by the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism, CNS and The Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism

Before working full-time at Merrill, Pyles was the government and politics editor, and Baltimore Ravens/NFL editor at The Baltimore Sun following a career as a reporter with The (Maryland) Daily Record, AOL’s and other publications.

Steiner is a professor at Merrill College and served a three-year term as director of the UMD ADVANCE program, an Office of Faculty Affairs initiative to support the recruitment, retention, advancement and professional growth of a diverse faculty. Now in her second term as editor of "Journalism & Communication Monographs," she has published nine co-authored or co-edited books, most recently, "Front Pages, Front Lines: Media and the Fight for Women's Suffrage."

Her research interests include media ethics, feminist theorizing and the conceptions/roles of women in the media workforce, especially journalism. Steiner is a past president of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) and a fellow of the International Communication Association. She worked for a small newspaper in upstate New York before going to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she earned her Ph.D. Steiner is an affiliate professor in UMD’s Harriet Tubman Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. 

Dean Lorente on Dr. Sarah Oates: "Sarah Oates has proven herself to be an outstanding researcher and she is the right person to help lead Merrill College's efforts to find solutions to the problems plaguing the journalism industry as we look to expand and elevate our research enterprise.”

Dean Lorente on Alexander Pyles: "Alexander Pyles has done a terrific job in a variety of critical faculty and staff roles at Merrill College. Along with being an alum, his experience at Merrill and as a professional journalist give him a unique perspective to help us take another step forward as a national leader in journalism education.”

Dean Lorente on Dr. Linda Steiner: "In addition to being a productive and valued member of our research faculty, Linda Steiner has led university-wide faculty equity initiatives. We are fortunate to have her leading the development of our faculty and staff moving forward, ensuring we serve our students the best we possibly can."

For more information, contact:
Josh Land

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