UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A distinguished Penn State faculty member renowned for her research in entertainment psychology and her mentorship of students has been named the inaugural Donald P. Bellisario Professor of Media Studies.
Mary Beth Oliver, a Penn State faculty member since 1998, is the first faculty member to move into a professorship named for Bellisario, the distinguished alumnus who provided a $30 million gift to the University in 2017.
“Part of Don’s vision for his transformative gift was to support the work of faculty members who are among the most gifted teachers and researchers in the field,” said Marie Hardin, dean of the Bellisario College. “Dr. Oliver is the perfect match for Don’s vision — someone who has distinguished herself as a scholar and also as a mentor who changes lives.”
Oliver is a Fulbright Scholar, Fellow of the International Communication Association (ICA), and is a co-primary investigator on a multiyear grant from the Templeton Foundation to study inspiring media messages.
Oliver earned ICA’s B. Aubrey Fisher Mentorship Award in 2017. She has edited five books about media effects, made dozens of presentations, and published scores of articles related to her work. Her work has appeared in such journals as the Journal of Communication, the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Communication Research, Human Communication Research, and Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, among others.
Oliver has earned numerous awards for her research, teaching and service at the University. She also is co-director of the Media Effects Laboratory at Penn State.
Funding for the professorship was part of the $30 million gift from Bellisario and his wife, Vivienne. At the heart of that gift was a scholarship fund for communications students, with first preference given to undergraduates who are U.S. military veterans, active-duty service members, reservists and members of the National Guard.
The gift includes support for programs and faculty, along with funds to help launch a new media center at the heart of campus in fall 2020. The Bellisario gift advances "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university.
The designation of Oliver for the Bellisario professorship will enhance Penn State’s already strong international reputation as a leader in the field of media effects research, Hardin said.
“The Media Effects Research Laboratory is already a site for innovative research — looking at everything from how AI might address the ‘fake news’ phenomenon to what media messages might actually inspire us to become better people,” Hardin added. “This professorship will allow Dr. Oliver and her colleagues do even greater work.”