Meet the College of Communication’s Spring 2021 Newest Faculty Members

This semester, the College of Communication’s Department of Mass Communication, Advertising, and Public Relations and Division of Emerging Media Studies welcomed two new professors, bringing over twenty years of combined valuable industry and teaching experience. Professor Majja Dennis and Dr. Chris Chao Su discuss what they have learned so far while teaching at Boston University during the pandemic.

Majja Dennis

Professor | CM217 Introduction to Advertising, CM419/CM721 Advertising Management

Hailing from the North Shore of Massachusetts, Professor Majja Dennis earned her bachelor’s degrees in English and government at Connecticut College. One semester after starting a Ph.D. program in presidential politics, Dennis dropped out and fell into advertising when a friend of a friend worked at an agency that needed a receptionist. Since then, Dennis has worked in business strategy, creative strategy, and account management. She has developed her marketing expertise for over 20 years through working with clients in retail, healthcare, CPG, nonprofit, financial services, higher education, and entertainment.

Photo provided by Majja Dennis

What is your favorite part about teaching at BU?

“My favorite part about teaching at BU is the enthusiasm that students have. It’s not every student, and it’s not every day, but that’s OK because we’re human beings. There are these moments of really great conversations with people where you just know that they’re learning and growing and figuring out something they didn’t know the day before, and I love that.”

What has it been like teaching during a pandemic? 

“I think it can be harder to find those moments. You have to fight harder for the opportunities to build that connection. One of the things that I think has been incredibly positive about teaching during this time is forcing technology adoption, because that is how the world works. While I don’t want everyone on it eight hours a day, the forced adoption of technology is incredibly positive.”

What’s something students can go to you to talk about?

“I’m a really good resource for students who are curious about what might come next for them after graduation. I’ve spent a lot of years hiring people, mentoring people, and running teams, so I can provide an honest and optimistic view of what their potential is in the advertising industry. On a personal level, students can come to me and know that we are just two human beings having a conversation and that everybody is doing the best they can. I’m a good person to talk to when there are concerns about performance or whether or not advertising is for them. I get it because I have those concerns sometimes too.”

What advice do you like to give to your students?

“There is no such thing as a permanent decision when it comes to school and your career. It sounds very cliche, but every experience you have is an opportunity to learn something. And sometimes you learn that this is something you love and want to do more of, and sometimes you learn that this is something you never want to do again. Either way, you learn something and it’s time well-spent. I think there can be this pressure to feel like you have to know what you want to do and how you want to get there, and it just doesn’t work that way. And it’s OK. You have to leave room for serendipity.”

What’s the last movie, book, podcast, or show that you binged and loved?

“The book The Mothers by Brit Bennett and the show The Sopranos.

Chris Chao Su

Assistant Professor | EM777 Masters Collaboratory Project

Assistant Professor Su specializes in tracking audience consumption of digital media through computational methods. He discovered his interest in the collision of media and data during his undergraduate studies at Wuhan University where he majored in journalism and minored in computer science. Su studied digital media design for learning at New York University, and later moved back to China to receive his Ph.D. in communication at the Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2018. Su then traveled to Denmark, where he was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Copenhagen. Su’s work has been published in numerous respected journals.

Photo provided by Chris Chao Su

What is your favorite part about teaching at BU?

“It can be challenging to coordinate with students in different time zones and make sure everyone has the same chance to learn and get the most out of the course. But at the same time, it’s been very interesting to observe how students from different cultures understand media studies. When we’re meeting with students, we’re seeing how their different cultural backgrounds affect their understanding of the class content. Usually, they have a kind of comparative logic since they come from different cultures and use social media in different ways. It’s very interesting to see this comparative discussion throughout the whole course and it inspires me a lot.”

What has it been like teaching during a pandemic? 

“Teaching during a pandemic is a challenge, but it’s also an opportunity. We all have the chance to access a lot of media resources. I try to think about how to give my students access to those resources as much as possible, especially if they’re passionate about a certain topic we’re learning in class. It’s not only a good opportunity for them, but it’s a good opportunity for us as professors because we are learning as well. When we’re not doing in-person classes, we have to think ahead about those questions and problems students may have and how we can help them. And that is a good way to expand my own digital skills – to find those available resources for students learning from different locations and also for students who may have different interests. In that sense, the internet becomes a huge database that we as instructors can explore in order to help the students to get the most out of it.”

What’s something students can go to you to talk about?

“I always say my analysis is more like a combination of qualitative research and quantitative analysis within a comparative perspective. Usually, I’ll collect a huge amount of data and really look into that data to try to figure out how it can help us understand a given social phenomenon from a more qualitative perspective. There’s a quote from Ronald Coase that I really like: ‘If you torture the data for long enough, it will confess to everything.’ You let the data talk and let the data drive you to any research idea you have in mind.”

What advice do you like to give your students?

“I’m so new here that I always want to get advice from my students. If there’s one piece of advice I can give, it’s to not let math freak you out. Once you get there, you’ll find that all those skills are really helpful. Sometimes, I feel like students in the field of communications are afraid of our mathematical approach to the subject. But it’s totally fine to ask questions, because as long as you put effort into it and explore different skills, you’ll really benefit from it. It’s not just about learning knowledge, but learning how to acquire knowledge.”

What’s the last movie, book, podcast, or show that you binged and loved?

Bridgerton – it’s like a British version of Gossip Girl.”

Nora Verdier, Staff Writer

Hailing from Grand Rapids, Michigan, Nora is a sophomore in Boston University’s College of Communication studying Media Science and minoring in Spanish. This is her first semester writing for The COMmunicator, and she is excited to continue sharpening her writing skills as a storyteller for the BU community. You can often find her baking with her friends while jamming to Taylor Swift or strolling around the Public Gardens with a coffee in hand.

Comments are closed.