Dr. Gracie Lawson-Borders was named the new dean of the School of Communications (SOC) effective July 1. With her new desk adorned with felt coasters made from the sheared underbelly of bison, Dr. Lawson-Borders is excited to join Howard and become a Bison.
'There is so much potential and opportunity at the university, and I want to be part of that experience,' said Lawson-Borders.
Dr. Lawson-Borders is a seasoned communications scholar with nearly three decades of experience in academia, communications studies and professional journalism. Previously, she served as associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences and professor in Communication and Journalism at the University of Wyoming.
Significant steps have already been taken toward that goal under the direction of a faculty-led Committee for the Future of the School of Communications. The committee has transformed the educational offerings and structure of the School, a move that won widespread approval from the SOC's faculty in December 2011.
Specific changes to the undergraduate degree programs include merging the Journalism department and Radio, Television and Film department into a new Media, Journalism and Film program and a formation of a second undergraduate department-- Strategic, Legal and Management Communication. In addition, six concentrations are offered under the two departments rather than the previous eleven.
Graduate and doctoral programs have also been enhanced. The new Ph.D. program in Communication, Culture and Media Studies merges two former graduate programs and transforms student experiences with a sharper focus on key issues including multiculturalism, leadership and technology.
Dr. Lawson-Borders joins the SOC to contribute leadership and expertise as academic programs and departments aim to move to the forefront of digital innovation and entrepreneurship. The School’s shift is focused on an interdisciplinary approach to preparing students to become thought leaders and innovative communicators in a changing digital and multicultural world.
'The reorganized programs will prepare SOC students for a dynamic and constantly evolving digital world,' said Dr. Lawson-Borders. 'Communication and media industries need educated, talented, skilled and digitally savvy individuals with an entrepreneurial and innovative spirit.'
The many improvements are aimed at positioning Howard’s School of Communications to become a “Best in Class” program. The changes will also better connect the School to resources available throughout the University and beyond, as well as improve graduation timelines.
Dr. Lawson-Borders has already met with leaders of the student council at SOC and plans to continue sharing and participating in joint efforts to engage students.
Similar curricula reforms are taking place at other leading universities as well. In 2005, the Carnegie Corporation’s report Improving the Education of Tomorrow’s Journalists bolstered the case for journalism schools to reinvigorate their programs. And last year six leading journalism and communications foundations together have urged universities nationwide to consider new models for helping students become innovators for digital news that will ensure an informed public.
'Emerging digital technologies and niche audience behavior have challenged the communication and media industries to change to meet or exceed the demands of the digital marketplace,' points out Dr. Lawson-Borders, whose second book will focus on digital business models and strategies for media organizations.