The Cathy Hughes School of Communications (CHSOC) is the third largest of Howard University's 14 schools and colleges. For more than 50 years the school has trained media and communication professionals through premier programs such as public relations, advertising, audio production, journalism, media management, film and television, legal communication, and communications graduate programs. CHSOC graduates are known at the local, national and global levels for their leadership with and across diverse communities through communication research, professional practice, innovation, job creation, social justice, and service via cutting-edge knowledge, skills and technology.
The CHSOC has a legacy of excellence demonstrated by its track record of graduating the most Black communications professionals; a growing reputation as the place for the best students who wish to study communications; and an active and engaged Board of Visitors, which assists the school with fundraising efforts. The CHSOC grooms' students in an environment that promotes high expectations, demands rigorous study, introduces innovative learning experiences, exposes students to outstanding media professionals, and offers them opportunities to participate in programs that illustrate the profound impact true leadership in communications can have on society. A large percentage of our alumni are distinguished journalists, broadcast professionals, academicians, and clinicians.
Critical to the School’s culture of excellence is its success at maintaining a cadre of outstanding full-time and adjunct professors who are renowned for their outstanding contributions to their respective fields. They are Pulitzer Prize winners, Emmy winners, Fulbright recipients, ASHA Fellows, prominent researchers, renowned authors, award-winning journalists and other media and communications professionals. The CHSOC was founded in 1971 and led by Dean Tony Brown, and it was named in honor of Cathy Hughes in 2016. Under Dean Brown, the School established one of the first annual career fairs that continues to help industry managers interview and hire young Black media professionals. The School’s birth coincided with the debut of the Howard University’s commercial radio station, WHUR-FM. Student-run radio station, WHBC-AM, was established in 1974. Under the second dean, the late Dr. Lionel Barrow, PBS-affiliate WHMM-TV (now WHUT-TV) began broadcasting in 1980, and it continues to serve as a training ground for students. In 1982, the School moved into the C.B. Powell Building; in 2021 the CHSOC relocated to a renovated, temporary location, the MET Building, 300 Bryant St., NW.
Under the third dean Dr. Orlando Taylor, the Walter Annenberg Foundation’s $2 million endowment created the Annenberg Honors Program. ACEJMC accredited the Department of Journalism, and the Department of Radio, Television and Film in 1986. In 1993, Dr. Jannette Dates became the fourth dean, serving until 2011. Time Warner invested $2 million to establish the Time Warner Endowed Chair, while the Hearst Foundation endowment supports the residencies of distinguished visiting journalists. From 2011 to 2013, Dr. Chukwuka Onwumechili served as interim dean.
In 2013, Dr. Gracie Lawson-Borders became the fifth dean. The year was filled with renewed energy with the launching of new degree programs following the university PCAR (President’s Commission on Academic Renewal) initiative and the restructuring of the school. The new undergraduate departments of Media, Journalism and Film (MJFC) and Strategic, Legal and Management Communication (SLMC), as well as the graduate departments of Communication, Culture and Media Studies (CCMS) and Communication Sciences and Disorders (COSD) were established.
In 2014, Linda Johnson Rice donated more than $2 million to launch the John H. Johnson Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship. In 2017, the Academic and Administrative Program Prioritization initiative included the launch of a university-wide assessment study to determine how well academic programs aligned with Howard University’s mission and goals. As a result, the CHSOC was designated a Strategic Investment program in 2021, resulting in a pledge of additional program resources.