Katherine Rowan to Retire from the Communication Department

Photo Courtesy of Katherine Rowan

Rowan discusses her journey at Mason and the impact she has left for her students


Katherine Rowan’s journey to Mason started in the 1970s when she was only 18 years old. Rowan joined the forensics team during her time at Mason, which launched her passion for communication. 

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree, she pursued her master’s and doctorate. She officially became a professor at Mason in 2000.

Now, after serving as a faculty member for 20 years, Rowan is set to retire by the end of the spring 2020 semester. She will be retiring in order to have more time to spend with her three grandchildren.

“One particular professor I was inspired by was Professor Margaret Duffner,” Rowan said. “She taught four classes at Mason and was the coach of the forensics team. As a coach, she was expected to listen to our speeches and give feedback, which allowed me to become comfortable standing up in front of a room and speaking to people.”

Once she became a professor, Rowan became involved in several projects — including the growth of the public relations program.

“When I first came to Mason, there were only about three classes in the catalog for public relations,” Rowan said. “Now, there are 10 classes. Many of the classes teach public relations students skills that allow them to get meaningful and interesting jobs.”

Photo Courtesy of Katherine Rowan

One of the classes, called Public Relations Campaigns, helps public relations students become more involved in their community.

“One of the campaigns that my students put together was specifically for a client from the Virginia Department of Transportation,” Rowan explained. “The brilliance of this campaign was that it taught inexperienced and young drivers to slow down around orange construction cones, which was important because a lot of drivers are unsure of what to do around these cones.”

Another project Rowan was involved in was the creation of the Student Environmental Action Showcase, which happens every April. Hundreds of Virginia youth, ranging from grades K-12, come to Mason to show their environmental action projects.

“A project showcased last year by elementary schoolers had to do with water quality,” Rowan said. “These kids put radish shoes around their elementary school so that when it rained, the water that is drained through the soil is cleaner when entering our waterways. This is safer than when rainwater goes through the drains of a road because then all the pollutants from oil and gas enters our waterways.”

Recent Mason alumna Cristina Izurieta worked very closely with Rowan and a client as the account supervisor for a project. 

“Dr. Rowan is a highly accomplished professor and pillar of the Mason community who goes above and beyond to ensure her students succeed in and outside of the classroom. I congratulate Dr. Rowan on her recent retirement, it is well deserved, and I wish her all the best — I know she will continue to do great things!”

Rowan said that she will miss getting the chance to help students and faculty the most once she leaves Mason.

“It is fun to help other people with their dissertations, research projects, news stories, speeches and much more,” Rowan explained. “I enjoy working at Mason. It is a privilege to be a Mason professor because if you do it right, you are mostly helping people learn and do research projects.”

Sophomore communication major Abigail Pearl also expressed her thoughts on Rowan leaving the communication department.

“Professor Rowan is a highly liked and a renowned professor and will be missed by Mason faculty, communication department, her students, and the community,” Pearl said in a message to Fourth Estate. “This was not a light decision taken but it is apparent that she will not be returning to Mason following this semester Spring 2020. We [students] would like to thank her family and her for allowing us to experience her wonderful teachings and form lasting relationships.”

Though she will be retiring, Rowan hopes to remain a part of the Mason community.

“I still do want to stay involved, though,” Rowan said. “I am hoping to come back to work on research projects with students and faculty and also teach part-time by 2021.”