New Communication Professors Join Andrews

   Campus News | Posted on August 11, 2023

This fall the Department of Visual Art, Communication & Design (VACD) welcomes two new faculty members and celebrates two significant role changes. Tamara Watson joins as assistant professor of public relations and communication, and Kaara Harris will serve as assistant professor of journalism and communication. Alyx Halsey transitions from contract faculty to full-time assistant professor of fine art, and Daniel Weber becomes the chair of the department.

“I’m excited to have professors Halsey, Harris and Watson join the Department of Visual Art, Communication & Design,” says Weber. “Collectively they bring a broad level of professional experiences that our students will benefit from immensely. Their career paths have led them to Andrews where they can connect with our students on a close personal level, helping each one in not only their academic journeys, but drawing upon their exceptional professional proficiencies.”

Tamara Watson holds a bachelor’s degree in communication with an emphasis in public relations, as well as a master’s degree in leadership. She spent many years working in the public relations and marketing field, before she began teaching communication at Southwestern Adventist University in 2021. “I have worked in healthcare, higher education, construction and the Adventist church. I feel each position has equipped me to be a better professor because I have a lot of hands-on experience,” she relates.

Watson found herself drawn back to Andrews, where she earned her master’s degree online, through friends in the department and family in the area. In addition to teaching public relations and speech courses, she will work for University Communication and pursue her doctorate in strategic communication from Regent University. She is excited to become acquainted with her new students and serve alongside her colleagues. “I hope to bring training in PR/communication that will prepare students for the real world of marketing and public relations. To me, these two always need to work together,” she reflects. 

Although the snowy weather of Michigan will be new to her, Watson is enthusiastic about exploring the area through hiking the state parks. She looks forward to creating a home where much of her family resides. As fall semester approaches, her new role will be guided by God. “I am very driven by jobs where I can make a difference for God,” she expresses. “I have served in many positions where I grow people or institutions and now I feel God is leading me to equip others to work for Him.”

Kaara Harris brings a wealth of journalistic experience to her new position at Andrews. Originally from Brooklyn, New York, she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Stanford University and a master’s in journalism from the Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at The City University of New York. She spent time serving in nonprofit organizations before her transition to a journalism career, beginning with an internship at the Cape Cod Times. After completing graduate school, she worked as a copy editor at Newsday on Long Island for several years. Outside of work, she has utilized her skills as a communication leader at her church, serving the Greater New York Conference and writing for the Atlantic Union Gleaner.

“Even though my route to journalism and editing was a bit circuitous, I truly believe every position, freelance job and volunteer opportunity prepared me for my next step and my current role,” she says. “I love reading, writing and good storytelling and hope to encourage those skills in our students.”

Harris first heard about the position in the VACD through a conversation with Weber and eventually decided to apply after prayerful conversations with God. “Ultimately I accepted the position because I discerned it was a God-led opportunity; it was humbling and exciting to see how my experiences converged at this moment for this specific opening,” she reflects. “I may miss being in the newsroom daily, but I am looking forward to working with students and, by God’s grace, to doing my part to inform and mentor a new generation of communicators and journalists.”

This will be Harris’ first role within Christian education, and she is excited about the unique opportunity. She most looks forward to engaging with her students, seeking to help them understand that their faith, passions and professional goals can be fostered together. “I hope to encourage authenticity, critical thinking and faithfulness in daily living,” she says. “Throughout my academic and professional journey, I’ve been fortunate to have many people who’ve encouraged and invested in me and my gifts because they saw something special. I hope I can do the same for my students.”

Alyx Halsey’s new role as assistant professor of fine art is enriched by her unique and diverse career path. She received a bachelor’s degree in painting from Andrews University, as well as a master’s degree in fine art from Central Michigan University (CMU). After graduating, she went on to further her education in holistic health and spent over 15 years as a mind-body therapist. Working with her local arts council, she utilized natural therapies, including art, to help restore health to the bodies and minds of her patients. Her varied experiences have taught her the importance of collaboration, networking and personal development.

Halsey discovered her love for instructing and managing studio spaces during a teaching assistantship at CMU. “Over the years, my mantra has become ‘practice makes progress,’ as opposed to ‘practice makes perfect,’” she notes. “I encourage students to be motivated through curiosity when encountering various ‘dilemmas’ that present themselves … rather than meeting their daily work with criticism and self-doubt. This is how we progress; this is how we discover things about ourselves and the world around us. This is how we grow. If I can inspire students to exchange judgment for curiosity, that’s a win.”

In the spring of 2022, Halsey began contract teaching at Andrews, helping revive the ceramics program. In addition to preparing the studio for use, she guided on-campus and community students through ceramics and sculpture classes. In the fall, she will be adding studio classes in drawing, painting, sculpture and ceramics to her repertoire. She will also continue expanding community art classes on campus and will fulfill the position of gallery director for both Harrigan and Smith Halls. 

Since her return to Andrews, Halsey has deeply appreciated the unique creative energy stemming from the diverse student and faculty population. She enjoys working in a supportive Christian environment and looks forward to collaborating with other individuals and departments on campus. “My goal is to provide quality instruction in an environment that is creatively energized and, at the same time, safe, peaceful and inspiring. Having a space where you can physically, mentally and emotionally slow down, work with your hands and take a break from stress … is so important,” she expresses. “Students creating alongside students and learning from each other in the process is priceless.”

Daniel Weber joined the VACD faculty in 2021, teaching photography, film and general communication classes. Previously, he worked for 30 years at different levels within the communication industry, most recently serving as the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists (NAD) communication director. Commenting on his new role as chair of the department, Weber affirms, “Having the opportunity to not only work with my talented colleagues, but to serve as department chair is a humbling experience. I hope to draw upon my previous professional work experiences as our department seeks to nurture and educate young professional artists and communicators who will be successful in their chosen careers.”

One of Weber’s goals as chair is to equip students with a team of professors who have balanced academic and professional experiences. “Our department offers a highly competitive educational program that prepares students to go out and be successful in academia, as artists and as professional communicators,” he says. “Our programs offer a well-balanced approach to not just specific disciplines, but other career skills that make our students highly sought after in the workforce. This is only possible because of the dedicated faculty in our department.”

Learn more about the Department of Visual Art, Communication & Design here.

   Jeff Boyd