In June 2014, Rochelle L. Ford, Ph.D., APR
, became a tenured professor and the new chair of the Public Relations Department in the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University, responsible for all undergraduate and graduate public relations programs at this PRWeek top-ranked university. Having served as a faculty member at Howard University since 1998, Dr. Ford has mentored hundreds of African American public relations professionals and championed the diversity agenda within the public relations industry through her research, grants, teaching and service. In August 2014, she was inducted into Arthur W. Page Society.
A nationally sought after speaker, she has given more than 50 special presentations on multicultural communications and diversity in the last 14 years to organizations including the Public Relations Society of America, Edelman, Weber Shandwick, Cone Communications, Omnicom, AdColor, Council of PR Firms, 4A’s, AAF, National Black Meeting Planners Association, Association for Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication, Virginia Commonwealth University, and Brigham Young University. She has also coordinated a series of teleconferences and podcasts on diversity and inclusion.
Dr. Ford has established and has written a monthly column “Diversity Dimensions” for Public Relations Tactics, an award winning trade newspaper. Her scholarship on diversity has appeared in the New York Times, book chapters and refereed business and communication journals. And, her 2005 investigation of diversity in public relations with Lynn Appelbaum of City College of New York garnered national attention providing recommendations for improvements while revealing on-going concerns about racism and possible discrimination in the industry among Hispanics and Blacks.
In 2006, the Public Relations Society of America National Capital Chapter honored her with the Diversity Champion Award. In 2008, she received the PRSA’s national D. Parke Gibson Multiculturalism Award for pioneering work in diversity in public relations. In 2011, The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations gave her its Milestones in Mentoring Award and the National Black Public Relations Society presented her with its Founders Award.
After graduation from Howard University’s Annenberg Honor’s Program, Dr. Ford (then Tillery-Larkin) served as the Area 3 communications executive for AARP responsible public relations outreach in six states. Later she began her own free-lance consulting practice in the Washington, DC metropolitan area, managing public relations campaigns, events and programs for such organizations as AARP, Urban Partnerships, National Council of Negro Women and Arthur Schultz & Associates. While consulting, Dr. Ford completed her master’s degree in public relations and a graduate certificate in Gerontology from the University of Maryland at College Park, under the mentoring of Drs. James and Larissa Grunig.
In 1995, Dr. Ford started her career in academia, teaching public relations at the University of Tennessee at Martin. While an instructor at UTM, she advised the undergraduate chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., the student chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists and the Public Relations Student Society of America chapter as it hosted the 1997 National Conference, won the 1997 Teehan Chapter Development Award and won several individual scholarships and awards. For two years, she served on the national board of PRSSA as a faculty advisor. While at UTM, she completed her doctorate at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. Her dissertation research won top research paper awards.
In 1998, Dr. Ford returned to Washington DC where she began teaching at her alma mater, Howard University, coordinating its advertising and public relations sequence and advising its PRSSA chapter that co-hosted the 2007 National PRSSA Conference. Under her leadership, the public relations program grew, established major partnerships with the Council of PR Firms, IPG, Omnicom, Edelman, GM, the Washington Post and the World Bank. In 2002, she received the International Award for Innovative Teaching, Learning and Technology.
In addition to her research interests in diversity, she conducts research on advertising, early childhood education, and teaching and learning. These lines of research led her to earn more than $2.14 million in grants, making her the top grant winner in the School of Communications over the last six years. Her grants included the Center for Excellence in Advertising at Howard University underwritten by the American Association of Advertising Agencies; the Howard University Initiative on Democracy, Markets, Communication & Technology, underwritten by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Preparing Future Journalism Faculty Program, underwritten by the Knight Foundation; and the Jumpstart at Howard University program which has engaged more than 300 Howard University students to work with preschool age children to prepare the kids for school success through improving literacy, underwritten by Corporation for National and Community Service (AmeriCorps). Through funding from Gannett, Washington Post and others, she also coordinated and served as the lead instructor for the Dow Jones Newspaper Fund High School Journalism Workshop at Howard University.
From 2007-2013, Dr. Ford served as the Associate Dean for Research and Academic Affairs for the School of Communications, the second largest school at Howard University. She oversaw the School’s budget, accreditations, curriculum, faculty appointments and promotions, and all grants, creative projects and research activities. In 2013, Dr. Ford began working on the Provost’s Initiative to Establish Howard University’s Center for Academic Excellence, a central component of the university’s strategic plan to improve academic performance, student retention and graduation rates. The Center aims to enhance academic advising, support for honor’s students, academic success programs including tutoring and first year and capstone experiences.
In addition to teaching, she continues public relations consulting, working with such organizations as the Commonwealth of Bermuda’s Department of Communications and Information, the Management School of London, Montgomery Public Schools, District of Columbia and for such agencies as Colabours Communication in VA and Cordy & Company in Colorado. Dr. Ford has served as an editorial board member of The Journal of Public Relations Research and the Howard Journal of Communication, as the national chair for the Multicultural Communications Section of PRSA, on the PRSA National Strategic Planning Committee, on the national PRSA Membership Committee, on the PRSA Educators Academy Board and as a co-chair for Champions (Friends) of PRSSA.
In Oct. 2000, Dr. Ford was named to PR Weeks’ Top 30 PR Professionals Under 30 and to the PRSSA National Hall of Fame. In 2001, she became an accredited public relations professional (APR) through the Universal Accreditation Board. In 2012, she earned a graduate certificate in management and leadership in education from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.
Dr. Ford has served as a member of the PRSA Diversity Committee, the American Advertising Federation's Mosaic Center Executive Committee and Think Tank, and she has written several white papers on diversity for AAF. She currently serves as the program director and a board member for the PRSA Foundation, a national grant giving non-profit committed to enhancing diversity and inclusion.
Outside of communications, she has led the Single and Parenting Ministry at Grace Baptist Church and at North Syracuse Baptist Church, has served as the campus sponsor of Alpha Chapter and Pi Iota Chapter, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., and has mentored undergraduate students through Howard University’s Women as Change Agents. Previously, she has served as a member of the board of directors for the Scholarship Academy and Jumpstart HBCU Initiative, as a team mom for the KLM Boys & Girls Club, as a coach for the White Oak Cheerleading Squad (leading them to regional competition), as the assistant coach for her son’s Bowie Boys and Girls Club soccer team, and as a Sunday School teacher at Woodstream Baptist Church. She has three children, Raven, Michael and Malik. Most recently, she and her two youngest children served as missionaries in western Kenya.