On April 21, Rochelle Ford brought her kids down to see their new home: Elon, North Carolina. Moving from the frigid temperatures of Syracuse, New York, Ford will replace Paul Parsons as the new dean of Elon University’s School of Communications.

Ford visited campus for three days to search for housing and schooling options for her and her children. 

In an interview with Elon News Network, Ford said she first learned of the position when driving down with her children to Washington, D.C., to attend the March for Our Lives rally. 

“We were packing up five teenagers and getting ready to hop in to a minivan to drive down so that they could express their First Amendment rights,” Ford said. 

The job comes with a few challenges, including getting Elon’s communications program to be recognized at the national level; fundraising to continue to advance the school’s technology, faculty and infrastructure; and forming new connections with corporations to support students in school and help them secure jobs right out of college. 

Outgoing dean Paul Parsons sees Ford bringing improvements where he fell short.

“I'm going to say that one of her biggest challenges will be learning to delegate,” Parsons said. “I would say that that has not been my strong point. I became the dean when we were small. I was involved in everything.”

When it comes to Ford’s plans for the future, she would like to continue Parson's legacy.  

“The faculty, staff and students have an amazing reputation already,” Ford said. "But how can we make it even better? How can we sustain that? How can we make sure that we keep moving forward? And so I hope that it will be one in which we elevate what has already begun here.”

When asked about comments Executive Vice President and Provost Steven House made about race playing a role in the selection of the new dean, Ford said, “I think it’s important that you look at all different aspects of diversity. I think it is exciting when you have a diverse applicant pool, whether it is race, gender, ethnicity, religion, regionality, and that universities try to ensure that their faculty as well as their administrators reflect the student body that they have.”

Ford spent close to four years at Syracuse University as professor and chair of the public relations department at the Newhouse School of Public Communications. Before moving north, Ford was at Howard University for 16 years where she served as a faculty member and administrator.

In addition to her work experience, Ford has also received several awards, including the Public Relations Society of America’s national D. Parke Gibson Multiculturalism Award, PRSA’s National Capital Chapter Diversity Champion Award, the National Black Public Relations Society Founders Award, the International Award for Innovative Teaching, Learning & Technology and PRWeek’s 30 Under 30 Award. 

Ford will be only the second dean in the school’s history when she takes over on June 30.


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