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‘The School of Communication is an academic jewel’: The history of TSU’s premier program

Written by on February 18, 2021

By Lydia Dillard, Texas Southern University

Students at the School of Communications
Students at the School of Communications (TSU)

As the world continues to grow and display vast technological change, Texas Southern University adapts and prepares its students for the inevitable. The School of Communication has a history of which many people are unaware. In fact, TSU developed the very first public School of Communication in Houston in hopes of bridging the gap of communication and technology in the Black community.

Influential TSU figures, like Dr. Clarice Lowe felt the need to create such a school to help Black students advance in journalism, speech communication, theatre-cinema, communicative disorders, telecommunications and technology.

Texas Southern University’s School of Communication was the first of its kind in Houston, with a forward-thinking mission that attracted tech-savvy faculty, staff, and students, which ultimately helped it become hugely attractive to potential students, and a staple in the community.

Faculty and students working together.
Faculty and students working together. (TSU)

The School of Communication opened its doors in 1975 with the help of Dr. Clarice Elizabeth Pierson Lowe. Dr. Lowe came to Houston to work as a librarian for Texas Southern University in 1947. After receiving her Ph.D., Dr. Lowe became a full-time professor at TSU.

When asked in 1973 by TSU President Dr. Granville Sawyer to chair a planning committee to propose a School of Communication, Dr. Lowe put together a committee which developed a budget, curriculum, facilities, and catalog for the school. The proposal for the school was accepted on its first reading by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board on October 18, 1974, and officially authorized on April 18, 1975, and became popularized during the height of technological change.

The current interim dean of the School of Communications is Dr. Rockell Brown Burton. Brown-Burton has a vast educational history in the field of mass communications and media. A key part of her governance and academic program focus includes the representation of women, race, and culture. She said the School of Communication has been a leader in preparing generations of dynamic and effective communicators. She also said the school has played an important role in giving the community a voice and serving underrepresented populations.

“As the premier School of Communication in Houston, we have played a vital role in shaping the workforce and narrative of Black professionals and the Black community. Our work matters because inclusivity, diverse views, and diverse perspectives are needed across media platforms and industries to move democracy forward and make it work for everyone. We matter because the playing field is not equal and representation matters,” Brown Burton said.

The school continues to innovate its curriculum with cutting-edge programs in journalism, radio, television and film, communication studies, entertainment, recording and management and a multimedia online student station, KTSU2, that’s the only one of its kind.

KTSU 2 The Voice
KTSU 2 The Voice (TSU)

Dr. Christian Ulasi is the senior professor in the School of Communication who joined the faculty in 1988 and has witnessed its evolution over the years. Dr. Ulasi is an alumnus of the TSU School of Communication. He holds a doctoral degree in international communication from The University of Texas at Austin. As the current chair of the Department of Radio, Television and Film, he is effusive about the historic role of the School of Communication in training and educating generations of African Americans as well as other underrepresented groups, which make up part of the international student population.

“The School of Communication is an academic jewel that occupies a paramount space in education with a clear mission of fostering global citizens imbued with a balanced sense of story-telling and engaging narratives which add to the sociology of knowledge as well as promote the essential virtues of our common humanity and international understanding,” Ulasi said.

The School of Communications
The School of Communications (TSU)

The School of Communication prides itself on its everlasting adaptability to the world’s technological advances. With guidance from experienced professors and bold curricula, the students have gone on to become leaders and innovators in their fields of study.

■ This story was written to chronicle Houston’s Black history as part of a partnership between KTSU2, “The Voice”, and KPRC-TV, for Black History Month.


About the author

Lydia Dillard
Lydia Dillard (TSU)

Lydia Dillard is a journalism major with a focus in advertising and public relations. Dillard wishes to continue to develop her writing skills to become a writer and producer in the media industry.