Dr. Rochelle L. Ford (Dillard University)

The Dillard University board of trustees has selected Dr. Rochelle L. Ford, APR, will as the University’s eighth president.

Ford is currently the dean of Elon University’s School of Communications where she leads more than 80 faculty and 1,500 students with six undergraduate major programs of study and one graduate program. A 2021 fellow in Clark Atlanta University’s HBCU Executive Leadership Institute, Ford assumed her role as president last month.

“Dr. Ford is a dynamic, charismatic and visionary leader,” said Michael D. Jones, Esq., chair of Dillard’s board of trustees. “Students, faculty, and trustees were blown away by her insight, passion and drive. As impressive as Dillard has been over the past 150 years in producing history makers and change agents, there is no question that, under Dr. Ford’s leadership, the best is yet to come.”

Dr. Phyllis Worthy Dawkins, executive director of the HBCU Executive Leadership Institute, recalls Ford as an “outstanding fellow” from the institute.

“The way she grasped what we were doing in terms of competencies, let us know that Dr. Ford would become a president. Her colleagues also saw that she had the disposition and knowledge to succeed in a presidential search.”

“I feel very blessed and honored to be selected to service Dillard University, which is a national treasure committed to producing leaders who live ethically,” said Ford.

“Dillard’s alumni think precisely and act courageously to make the world a better place. I aim to continue that legacy and ensure the sustainability of Dillard for generations to come.”

Having built a robust resume in higher education administration and instruction, Ford has earned a reputation as a hard-working transformative leader. Her scholarship and experience include diversity, equity and inclusion, public relations, advertising, journalism, and media.

The following are some of Ford’s many accomplishments:

  • The second dean in the history of Elon’s School of Communications, Ford increased student enrollment approximately 15% between 2018 and 2021.  Among many factors, Ford credits relationship-rich, engaged learning for the school’s enrollment success.
  • Ford completed the HBCU Executive Leadership Institute microcredential on navigating board governance.
  • At Syracuse, Ford co-chaired the university’s successful Middle States Commission on Higher Education re-accreditation and initiated a university-wide required common first year experience.
  • With the recommendations of the School of Communication’s Faculty Technology Committee, Ford made strategic investments in her unit’s technological infrastructure including creative software, establishing video distribution through OTT, providing media analytics and social listening tools, enhancing video over fiber optics and audio over IP, updating and increasing camera coverage for Elon Athletics and Elon Sports Vision, and branding through digital signage in addition to other resources.

    •  At Elon, she 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. Ford also hired more than 10 full-time faculty and more than 10 part-time instructors.

    Before entering her role at Elon, Ford served as Syracuse University’s provost faculty fellow, implementing its strategic plan. She also served as the chair of the public relations department in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. Prior to Syracuse, she helped establish the Academic Center for Excellence at Howard University and served as the associate dean of research and academic affairs in Howard’s School of Communications.

Among 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 Charles B.W. Prince. 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.

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. 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.

A native of Gahanna, Ohio, Ford earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism with a specialization in public relations from Howard, 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, Ford is a member of PRSA, where she holds an Accreditation in Public Relations. She is also a member of the National Black Public Relations Society, the Arthur W. Page Society, the American Advertising Federation, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., the Alamance County Chamber of Commerce’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and the United Church of Christ. Dillard is affiliated with the United Church of Christ as well as the United Methodist Church.

Ford will be the second woman named Dillard’s president in a permanent capacity. Dr. Bettye Parker Smith served as interim president 2004-2005, and Dr. Marvalene Hughes served as president 2005-2011.