Rochelle L. Ford, Ph.D., APR is the eighth president of Dillard University. Having built a robust resume in higher education administration and instruction, President Ford has earned a stellar reputation as a hands-on, transformative leader. Prior to taking the helm at Dillard, she served as the dean of the School of Communications at Elon University, the second to serve in that position in the university’s history. There, she led more than 80 faculty and 1,500 students with six undergraduate major programs of study and one graduate program.
Under President Ford’s leadership at Elon, the School of Communications experienced an enrollment increase of approximately 15% between 2018 and 2021. She also hired more than 10 full-time faculty and more than 10 part-time instructors. President Ford led a reorganization of the academic departments to provide students with more access to administrators, improved faculty and student mentoring, and strengthened academic curriculum and industry partnerships. President Ford also created an industry advisory task force to assist communications faculty to develop curriculum and begin securing funding for a new health communications program focused on creating internships, service learning, undergraduate research and study abroad opportunities.
President Ford is recognized nationally for her work in public relations. In 2021, the Arthur W. Page Society presented Ford with the Distinguished Service Award for her service to the public relations profession, and her commitment to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion in the field in 2021. That same year, ColorCOMM listed her as one of 28 Most Influential Black Females in Communications. In 2019, Ford received the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) Outstanding Educator Award; and, in 2018, Ford was inducted into the PRWeek Hall of Fame.
President Ford also served for four years as a professor and the chair of the Public Relations Department at the S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, helping the program to win the PRWeek Education Program of the Year. Through a provost faculty fellowship, President Ford co-chaired Syracuse’s successful Middle States Commission on Higher Education re-accreditation; and she initiated a university-wide required common first year experience. President Ford also taught as a professor for 16 years at her alma mater, Howard University, in the School of Communications, where she served as the associate dean for research and academic affairs for six years and as the former director of the Preparing Future Journalism Faculty Program. Her last assignment at Howard was to lead the university’s initiative to establish a campus-wide Center for Academic Excellence.
Her scholarship and experience include diversity, equity and inclusion, public relations, advertising, journalism, and media. A former advertising and public relations sequence coordinator at Howard, President Ford conducted research about diversity in advertising and public relations, and wrote a monthly column, “Diversity Dimensions for Public Relations Tactics,” an award-winning trade newspaper. She has been a member of the boards of PRSA, the PRSA Foundation and the American Advertising Federation’s Mosaic Center. President Ford co-chairs the Arthur W. Page Society’s diversity and inclusion committee. Among President Ford’s numerous publications are “Administrative Challenges and Organizational Leadership in Historically Black College and Universities,” and “Setting a New Agenda for Student Engagement and Retention in Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” both co-authored with Dr. Charles B.W. Prince. President Ford was an editor of “Reality TV: Entertaining… But No Laughing Matter,” a 2017 whitepaper that examined the impact of media images, particularly on African- American women.
A native of Gahanna, Ohio, President Ford earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism with a concentration in public relations from Howard University, her master’s degree in journalism with a specialization in public relations from University of Maryland, College Park, and her Ph.D. in journalism from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. She also earned a graduate certificate in higher education administration from Harvard University.
Active in both her discipline and her community, President Ford is a member of PRSA, where she holds an Accreditation in Public Relations and the Arthur W. Page Society. She is also a member of the National Black Public Relations Society, the American Advertising Federation, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., the Alamance County Chamber of Commerce’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, the United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church.
Following one-on-one meetings with her cabinet during her first two weeks in office, Dr. Ford compiled a list of sixty major accomplishments she expected to achieve by her 60th day in office, and she surpassed that goal well ahead of her target date. Within her first 100 days as president, Dr. Ford met with the board of trustees, faculty, staff, students, alums, and community leaders, whose input empowered her with tools and strategies needed to prioritize the next steps to propel the University to an unparalleled level of distinction.
Dr. Ford recognizes the importance of maintaining a transparent and cohesive relationship with Dillard’s committed alums, particularly those who no longer live in New Orleans. Through meetings, forums, and webinars, Dr. Ford interacts with individuals who are eager to support her in her mission to move Dillard to the next level. She listens to their concerns and suggestions, and incorporates their valued input into her planning.
Upon her arrival, Dr. Ford was invited to sit on the boards of GNO, Inc., Business Council of New Orleans, and the Louisiana Board of Regents.
Dr. Ford has been warmly received with welcome receptions by Coca Cola Pay It Forward, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., The Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans, St. Augustine High School, Southeast LA Council of Boy Scouts, Son of a Saint Organization, Phelps Dunbar, LLP, UNCF Women Presidents Conference, UNCF Leadership Team Meeting, The Governor’s Leading Ladies Luncheon, Inaugural Women in Leadership Cohort Experience at Syracuse University, Women’s EAB Affinity Group, The Leadership Alliance Welcome Dinner, 2022 Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Community Service Award Annual Scholarship and Awards Gala, PRWeek Awards Live Judging Day, GNO Higher Education/NOETC Board, and the Council of Independent Colleges.
Additionally, she was introduced and welcomed into the New Orleans business community by Liberty Bank and Trust, The Urban League of New Orleans, PRSA New Orleans, New Orleans City Council, Council of Presidents, and Dr. Clark Reports.