URI names Rochester Institute professor, administrator Ammina Kothari as director of the Harrington School

KINGSTON, R.I. – April 29, 2021 – The University of Rhode Island has appointed Ammina Kothari, an associate professor and director of graduate programs within the Rochester Institute of Technology’s School of Communication, director of the Harrington School of Communication and Media.

Kothari has been at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), a private research university of about 19,000 students in Henrietta, New York, for nearly nine years, joining RIT as an assistant professor in 2012. Joining URI in August, she will oversee the Harrington School with its more than 1,300 students and 62 full-time faculty across 26 programs, a $6.8 million media hub, and cutting-edge broadcast center.

“Professor Kothari is an experienced leader with a proven record of program development, a strong research record, and an in-depth understanding of the continually changing field of communication and media,” said Jeannette E. Riley, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “She brings an innovative, interdisciplinary approach to teaching and research, as well as a collaborative leadership style and a firm commitment to student learning and success, that will propel the future growth of the Harrington School. I’m excited to have Professor Kothari join us in August as we prepare for the next academic year.”

Kothari, currently a resident of Rochester, New York, was attracted to the Harrington School because of its strong storytelling tradition and opportunity to work with faculty to develop innovative interdisciplinary programs.

“The pandemic has highlighted the need for communication and storytelling to effectively convey complex information in a timely, engaging manner,” Kothari said. “The talented faculty and students and accomplished alumni, provide a strong foundation for the Harrington School to respond to communication challenges we are currently facing globally.

“As the new director, I look forward to supporting our students, faculty, and staff and working with our advisory board and alumni to build on the existing strengths in the Harrington School and expand our reach beyond the state of Rhode Island.”

Kothari was chosen from a field of three finalists. The search process began in January 2021 with the formation of a search committee made up of representatives from all Harrington departments and a faculty member from the College of the Environment and Life Sciences to create a position description. After reviewing applications, the committee conducted screening interviews of all qualified candidates. Three finalists made virtual campus visits, during which each participated in six hours of meetings with different groups in the Harrington School, including students.

“The search committee was excited by her focus on digital storytelling and the power of narrative as a way to deepen interdisciplinary work across the Harrington School and the College of Arts and Sciences,” said Nedra Reynolds, head of the search committee, associate dean of Arts and Sciences, and professor of writing and rhetoric. “As a task-oriented leader, Dr. Kothari will bring her expertise in applied journalism to URI, as well as her strong record of grant-funded research.”

At URI, Kothari is interested in creating more collaborative opportunities among degree programs in the Harrington School.

“In my work, I often leverage advances in technology to innovate curricular offerings and strive to create a more inclusive academic environment that fosters interdisciplinary learning and timely scholarship,” she said. “At Harrington, I would also like to explore ways to build partnerships with other programs on campus and in the community.”

As director of RIT’s master of science program in communication, Kothari developed numerous new courses and updated the program’s curriculum. A recipient of the Eisenhart Award for Outstanding Teaching, RIT’s highest honor for tenured faculty, she taught a range of journalism and communication courses, including data journalism, communication theories, gender and media, and social media research. She previously taught while pursuing her Ph.D. at Indiana University and as a graduate student at the University of Oregon, where she taught Swahili.

Kothari’s research has focused on the role of technology in transforming communication and journalism practices. Her ongoing projects include comparative analysis of global journalistic practices within the context of emerging media platforms and technologies, including artificial intelligence and automation; and the role of journalists and social media in shaping perceptions of controversial social and political issues.

Through a National Science Foundation grant, she recently explored ways to empower communities by democratizing urban data science. In 2016, she was awarded an Emerging Scholar grant from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication to support her research on British media’s coverage of the refugee crisis.

Her work has been published in Digital Threats: Research and Practice; Journal of Media Practice and Education; International Communication Gazette; Journalism and Mass Communication Educator; Journalism: Theory, Practice and Criticism; African Journalism Studies; Journalism Studies; Journalism Practice; Global Media Journal.

A native of Tanzania, Kothari received her bachelor’s degree in English and journalism from North Central College, her master’s in Communication and Society from the University of Oregon, and her Ph.D. in mass communication from Indiana University.