Rachel Davis Mersey is dean of Moody College of Communication, holds an appointment as Everett D. Collier Centennial Chair in the School of Journalism and Media and is a member of the Communication and Leadership faculty. She has worked extensively with academics and industry partners to research, develop and launch new media products and is an expert in identity salience and media use, the influence of digital media on community-building, and understanding audiences and their information needs. With more than 15 years of experience in higher education and academic administration, she brings a passion for connecting scholarship and professional practice to grant-supported research and projects.
Mersey joined Moody College in 2020 as the associate dean for research. In that position, she was a champion for research and creative projects and expanded the role of the research office to address the funding and support needs of Moody College’s professional track faculty. She provided hands-on guidance for research and related support and managed year-over-year growth in both proposals and expenditures.
Mersey most recently served as the inaugural director of global research partnerships at Meta, then known as Facebook, where she built and led the international team that created the infrastructure for the company to share privacy-protected data with academics in order to better understand the impact of Facebook and Instagram on the world. Additionally, she served as the point person for U.S. and European policymakers concerned about sharing social media data with researchers. This work was a natural extension of Mersey’s extensive background in research administration at both The University of Texas at Austin and Northwestern University.
While at Northwestern, Mersey was a professor and the associate dean for research at the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications. She also held courtesy appointments in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences Department of Political Science and the School of Education and Social Policy Learning Sciences Program. As a fellow at the Northwestern Institute for Policy Research, Mersey successfully collaborated across disciplines, including serving as the principal investigator on a National Science Foundation-funded project, Systematic Content Analysis of Litigation Events, that leveraged artificial intelligence to allow journalists to bring transparency to court records.
Mersey’s research has been published in journals across a variety of disciplines and presented at academic and industry conferences, including those for the Paley Center for Media in New York and the American Society of News Editors. Research she presented at the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication conference was awarded “top paper” by the International News Media Association. In addition, she has done work for the News/Media Alliance, formerly the Newspaper Association of America exploring young adults and newspapers and the Chicago Community Trust looking at local information needs. Mersey also served as an advisory member to the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy, jointly organized by the Knight Foundation and the Aspen Institute. Her first book, “Can Journalism Be Saved? Rediscovering America’s Appetite for News,” was published by Praeger in 2010 and stands as a formative argument recasting local news efforts as community-driven initiatives. Her second book, “Mobile Disruptions in the Middle East,” with co-authors in the U.S. and the Middle East, examines the state of and opportunity for mobile media innovations in the Gulf states.
Previously, Mersey was a reporter at the Gannett-owned Arizona Republic, where she worked with azcentral.com and the NBC affiliate. She holds a doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.