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The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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By Ella Mitchell, Contributing News Editor • June 14, 2024

Media and public affairs school director to step down after 11-year tenure

File Photo by Jack Fonseca | Senior Staff Photographer
SMPA Director Frank Sesno said the school will be in “better shape” next academic year after several faculty members return from sabbatical.

School of Media and Public Affairs Director Frank Sesno will step down after an 11-year tenure as the school’s head at the end of this academic year, according to an email sent to students.

Sesno announced Friday that he will take a sabbatical for a year starting this summer and rejoin SMPA as a faculty member after the year concludes, according to the email. Sesno said in the email that he decided to step down to dedicate more time to personal writing and video projects and Planet Forward, a project dedicated to teaching college journalism students about environmental storytelling which he started 11 years ago.

“The climate change/sustainability story is one of epic proportions, an existential challenge to humanity,” he said in the email. “It is a story of increasing urgency and growing interest. Our opportunities to create deep new narratives, teach and travel with students are more important and exciting than ever.”

Sesno was named director of the school in May 2009 after former director and current professor of media and public affairs Lee Huebner declined to continue serving. Under Sesno’s tenure, the school has increased donor outreach efforts to create a career network that offers financial assistance and career mentorship opportunities for SMPA students.

The school under Sesno also became home to two new centers created in 2019 – the Project on Ethics in Political Communication and the Institute for Data, Democracy, and Politics – the latter of which is funded through a $5 million grant donated by the Knight Foundation.

Sesno closed his email by urging SMPA students to remember the importance of journalism and strategic political communication in light of recent trends in media, politics and technology.

“I am intensely proud of SMPA and what we have built here,” he said in the email. “The exceptional research, teaching, learning, convening, and community create a unique and powerful experience. I hope you share in that experience every day.”


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