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Tombras School Hires María De Moya for DEI-centered Professorship 

Maria de Moya of the Tombras School of Advertising and Public Relations sits in an office chair in front of a bookshelf.Throughout her career in academia, María De Moya has sought opportunities to contribute to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives as an advocate for those under-represented in higher education. As she served in those roles, it became clear to De Moya that she wanted DEI to be the center of her career, so she began searching for a job to fit that passion. When she saw an open position for the newly created Charles Tombras, Sr. Endowed Professorship at the Tombras School of Advertising and Public Relations, she knew she had found the right fit for her goals. 

I saw the college and the school has already been doing this work and engaging their faculty and students and putting their plans together. It seems to me that there is a real genuine commitment here, so I thought that the best way to find out more was to apply and see if it was as good as it sounds. My experience during the interviews was wonderful and I’m very excited to have accepted the position,” she said.

This position, which was created as part of the gift that added the Tombras name to the School of Advertising and Public Relations, was established to increase the diversity not only within the school, but in the field of study and in industry. De Moya is tasked with developing and implementing “Tombras Touchpoints,”—initiatives to grow and demonstrate the school’s commitment to DEI. The role’s responsibilities align with the College of Communication and Information’s strategic plan, which seeks to “create a more just, prosperous, and sustainable future through world-class research, scholarship, and creative work.” 

Tombras, a full-service advertising agency based in Knoxville, entered this landmark partnership with CCI with several goals—one of which is to double the number of Black, Indigenous, and people of color entering those industries after graduating from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. When the partnership was first announced, Tombras President Dooley Tombras made it clear that there is a dearth of diversity in the industry, and his hope is that the school now bearing his name will address that root issue by creating awareness and solutions.

“I am tremendously confident that Dr. María De Moya is the perfect addition to the esteemed faculty of the Tombras School of Advertising and Public Relations,” said Tombras President Dooley Tombras. “Dr. De Moya’s impressive academic experience coupled with her knowledge and passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion will help us cement our vision of changing representation in higher education and in the industry overall, while furthering our goal of making the Tombras School the country’s premier program for advertising and PR.”

De Moya is coming to UT from her position as an associate professor and chair of the Public Relations and Advertising Program at the College of Communication at DePaul University in Chicago. She holds a doctorate in mass communication from The University of Florida, a master’s in business and economic reporting from New York University, and an undergraduate degree in mass communication from Santo Domingo Catholic University in the Dominican Republic. In her role at DePaul, she has taught courses in both public relations and advertising, and she is excited to continue teaching as part of her position at the Tombras School. She is also looking forward to continuing her research, which explores how marginalized and ethnic groups use strategic communication to advance their goals.

De Moya’s service work, teaching experience, and scholarship coalesced to make her an ideal candidate for this position, said Beth Foster, professor and director for the Tombras School. 

“Dr. De Moya has extensive and progressive leadership experience in diversity, equity, and inclusion. She also intentionally infuses DEI into her pedagogy. Dr. De Moya’s research explores questions of identity, belonging, inclusion, power, and equity. In all scholarly aspects, Dr. De Moya has demonstrated a genuine and deliberate commitment to addressing underrepresentation and bolstering inclusivity and equity,” Foster said.

De Moya said she plans to hit the ground running when she joins CCI on January 1, 2023. This is the third time she’s stepped into a role that has no precedence, so she knows what it takes to build up something from scratch.

“There’s momentum when you come in and you don’t want to lose that. Some of the best things I intend to do is put together what I’ve learned about building and making community, and that includes everything from social events, group readings, and sharing resources; but the most important thing is that people keep DEI top of mind,” she said.

Though she plans to dive into her work right away, De Moya said she also deeply values conducting research to back up her planning. She’ll talk to students, faculty, community members, prospective students, and anyone who can add a perspective to what needs to be done to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus and in the field of advertising and public relations. Through her research, De Moya said she will find exactly what issues to pinpoint and address with the initiatives she creates for the school.

“I think you need to articulate what you are trying to achieve and sometimes I think people get so much into ‘We need to do something!’ that they don’t remember to ask themselves ‘Why?’,” she said.