#MasonCOMM Full Professor, Carl Botan, Retires at the End of the Semester

by Jennifer Shaskan

#MasonCOMM Full Professor, Carl Botan, Retires at the End of the Semester

The Department of Communication would like to formally announce the retirement of Professor Carl Botan. After decades in the field both as an academician and a practitioner, Botan has left a mark in the world of research, public relations, and strategic communication. After fourteen years with the department, Botan claims he is looking forward to completing several projects but will miss working with students and learning from them. He left a lasting impression on not only this department but the field of public relations as a whole and we will miss him dearly.

Gary Kreps, Professor, who has known Botan for decades, discussed his work and work ethic.  Botan has a long history of being “very committed to using strategic communication to address social inequities and promote social justice both locally and globally. Botan’s history working as a champion for worker unions in Detroit reinforced his strong support for the rights of those with limited power in society (poor, immigrant, elderly, minority, disabled, and stigmatized groups of people) especially those who are likely to be taken advantage of.” 

As a practitioner and instructor for public relations, Botan hopes his many years of service have left an impact on not only his clients but his colleagues and students as well. This impact is marked by his dedication to the education of public relations as a field on an undergraduate and graduate level culminating in the publication of several books and articles highlighting the understanding and application of theory and ethics within the field.

Botan’s network of Public Relations experts, along with his expertise, has allowed him to build a strong program at the several universities at which he's worked, including George Mason.  Kreps, the hiring chair in 2004 said, that Botan “has been instrumental in building the strong program and culture of the department!  Carl set the tone for developing our top-level department Ph.D. program as the initial director of the program. He helped revolutionize and advance the study of public relations both within the department and across the field, with his strong focus on ethics, empirical research, theoretical grounding, internationalization, and co-creation.” 

Botan has guided dozens of students through theses and dissertations, always offering sage advice, disciplined guidance, and his full support.  Kreps noted Botan’s arc of knowledge and research, stating “We have addressed important communication issues in our work together related to big social problems such as national security, crisis management, health promotion, and international relations.”

Lawrence R. Frey, professor and associate chair of graduate studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder has known Botan for over 40 years, since they first worked together on Botan’s thesis at Wayne State University.  Frey stated that while he “served as [Botan’s] thesis advisor, during that time (and ever since), and unlike any other relationship [he has] had with a graduate advisee, [they] worked together as coequal collaborators who supported and mentored each other. [Frey] forever will be grateful for how [Botan’s] mentoring benefitted [him].” 

Over his lengthy and distinguished career, Botan certainly made an impact on the students he taught and the faculty with whom he taught.  Frey commented that “Through [Botan’s] teaching, research, and service, he changed students’ lives for the better, influenced entire fields of communication study (e.g., his contributions to public relations scholarship are unparalleled), and created opportunities in departments, universities, and the communication discipline that have benefited so many people.  Undoubtedly, [Botan] will continue to make important professional contributions during “retirement,” and he can retire knowing that his career has been an exemplary model of the highest quality.”

Associate Professor, Star Muir compared Botan to Gandalf, saying he is “a somewhat grumpy wizard who provides years of experience and insight in making the "magic" happen. Carl has helped expand our Departmental focus and reputation and has offered useful advice freely across a variety of academic challenges.”  Warren Decker, Professor and Director of Debate heaped praise on Botan as a foundational member of the program from the late 1970s.  “Carl was one of those senior faculty hires that contributed a great deal to our department. In 1977 when Bruce (Manchester) and I were on the committee to create and design the Department we had to decide what to include. I had heard a bit about Public Relations and we wanted to be "cutting edge" so I decided to attend a small conference hosted by American University on what PR was. …..Years later Carl was one of those that provided a great deal of credibility to that notion. We are grateful for his help.”

Botan emphasizes the importance of updating and adapting the applications of these theories to modern eras through his more recent publications. As time has progressed, technology, media, and people have changed therefore, public relations theories must be fluid in application. By continuing to examine the everchanging nature of the field and the world in which it exists, Botan has created a template for future generations to continue adapt as the industry does.

Botan is not only known for his excellence in the classroom, Kreps said “While some students and colleagues may find him intimidating (at first), they soon learn that behind his initial gruff all-business demeanor lies a very kind and caring person with a wickedly playful sense of humor.”  Brittany Sanders, Graduate Program Coordinator, who has worked with Botan in his various roles, continues the sentiment by saying “Carl is a generous person who is always looking to find the most equitable solution to any problem and is constantly finding ways to make our programs and the people in our department the best they can be. His kindness to everyone knows no bounds, from taking new faculty to lunch to help them adjust, to offering his fuzzy jacket to the always freezing cold staff members. He will be truly missed as a constant presence around the department.”

Former Undergraduate Advising Director Catherine Wright, was very impressed with Botan’s “passion for teaching and his love of the discipline! He has been so supportive of our undergraduates and their success! His retirement leaves a big hole in the department!”  Wright continued by saying that “Carl was very active communicating with me, trying to connect people in his network with students in the department who might be interested in opportunities.”

Botan has contributed his work on public relations theory to several conferences both domestic and international emphasizing the need for application on a global and intercultural scale. His work has taken him throughout Europe, Africa, Australia, and Asia spreading the discussion about public relations theories and applications further.

Without a doubt, Botan’s presence will be missed in the department.  Associate Professor, Chris Clarke said, “congrats on a well-earned retirement. Stay well wherever retirement takes you, from Fairfax to the island (and everywhere in between). I/we'll miss your sage advice and knowledge of Mason's inner-workings.” Journalism faculty, Mallory Saleson concurred, “Congrats on moving into your next chapter. And, from the sound of it, you will have plenty on your to-do list with your home in Canada. No doubt you'll keep busy and settle into the new routine.”

Botan is a leader in the field of public relations and public relations education. His support of students, fellow faculty and staff members, and his championing of those adversely affected by different situations will be long remembered.  His influence will be felt through the field as his prolific research continues to impact future generations of scholars.  From all of us in the department, best of luck!  You will be missed!