Three Academic Leaders Join SMU Meadows School of the Arts

Melissa Chessher, Tom Keck, and Joe Phua will be joining the faculty this academic year as distinguished division chairs.

Melissa Chessher, Thomas Keck, Joe Phua
Melissa Chessher, Thomas Keck, Joe Phua

SMU Meadows School of the Arts announced the appointment of three new division chairs joining the faculty this academic year: Melissa Chessher as the Belo Foundation Endowed Distinguished Chair of Journalism, Tom Keck as the Director of the Division of Music and Joe Phua as the Temerlin Endowed Distinguished Chair of Advertising and Director of the Temerlin Advertising Institute.

“The arrival of these three academic leaders marks the beginning of a new era at Meadows,” said Samuel S. Holland, the Algur H. Meadows Dean of the Meadows School of the Arts. “The experience gained through each of their distinguished careers will enhance our programs that empower students to be leaders who transform the creative landscape.”

Melissa Chessher comes to SMU Meadows School of the Arts from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, where she most recently served as interim associate dean for inclusivity, diversity, equity and accessibility. Prior to serving in that capacity, she was chair of the magazine, news and digital journalism department for more than a decade, overseeing the merger of the former newspaper and online journalism and magazine departments and overseeing the reinvention of the department’s curriculum. She also served as the director of the Newhouse Graduate Newspaper Fellowship for Minorities, launched the school’s participation in the Pulitzer Center’s Campus Consortium, managed the school’s Fashion and Beauty Communications Milestone, and was a member of the Renée Crown University Honors Program. 

In 2016, Chessher was chosen as one of Folio magazine’s Top Women in Media. As a magazine journalist, she worked on the launch of Real Simple, the largest magazine launch in Time Inc. history, and Gusto, a healthy living magazine for Latin American women. She has written for more than a dozen national consumer publications including SelfHealth, GlamourAllureMarie ClaireFitnessMen's Health and Parents magazines. A sixth-generation Texan, Chessher began her journalism career in Dallas, and she looks forward to returning to her home state and working with the talented and dedicated team at SMU.

Thomas Keck comes to SMU from Utah Valley University, where he served as Chair of the Department of Music and Director of Bands. As Chair, Keck oversaw 10 degree programs, nearly 300 music majors and 75 faculty-staff colleagues in a NASM accredited, all-Steinway School. Keck raised the department’s completion rate to exceed the university’s benchmark for 2025 by 2021. Keck assembled a diverse faculty with 71% of the full-time hires during his leadership coming from under-represented populations. In addition to his terminal degree in conducting, Keck holds a master’s degree in higher education administration with a cognate in fundraising leadership and has credentials in diversity, equity, and inclusion as well as anti-racist pedagogy.

Keck has 22 years of teaching experience at the universities of Miami, Georgia, New Hampshire, and Ball State. Keck has twice received the National Band Association Citation of Excellence and was included in the 20th annual SBO Magazine 50 Directors Who Make a Difference. Keck has conducted at regional conferences of the CBDNA and NAfME and presented clinics for several state music conferences. He has appeared with university and high school ensembles throughout the United States, Bahamas, Bermuda, Haiti, Mexico, Canada, Europe, and China.

Joe Phua comes to SMU from the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia. He has a PhD in Communication and an MA in Communication Management from the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California. Dr. Phua’s research examines the uses and effects of new and emerging communication technologies, including social media, on advertising and branding outcomes. His research has been published in top academic journals, including Journal of Advertising, Journal of Communication, Journal of Advertising Research, Computers in Human Behavior, Journal of Health Communication, Journal of Consumer Behaviour, International Journal of Consumer Studies, Telematics and Informatics and Journal of Health Psychology, among others. His research has also received coverage in publications including Newsweek, Men’s Health, Huffington Post, Men’s Fitness and WebMD magazine, as well as in news outlets like ABC News, Yahoo! News and NPR Marketplace Tech.

Prior to his academic career, Dr. Phua has worked in marketing communications at Viacom (MTV Networks) in Los Angeles, advertising account management at the Interpublic Group (IPG) in Los Angeles, and in film production at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood, California. In 2012, his dissertation won the Dissertation of the Year award at both the NCA Health Communication Division, National Communication Association (NCA) Conference and the ICA Health Communication Division, International Communication Association (ICA) Conference. Dr. Phua also currently serves as Associate Editor of International Journal of Advertising and is on the Editorial Review Boards of Journal of Advertising, Journal of Interactive Advertising, and Journal of Current Issues and Research in Advertising.