Effective Sept. 1, Dr. Jennifer Vardeman will serve as director of the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication at the University of Houston. Her appointment follows a unanimous vote in her favor by departmental faculty and approval by interim College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences dean, Dr. Daniel O’Connor.
“As her colleagues’ widespread endorsement shows, Dr. Vardeman is the right person for this position,” said O’Connor. “Not only has she demonstrated unwavering commitment to the success of Valenti students and graduates, she has also proven herself capable of navigating our current social climate this past year.”
Vardeman, who joined the Valenti School of Communication as an assistant professor in 2009 after earning a doctorate in communication from the University of Maryland College Park, was appointed interim director in August 2020. She has since guided the school through its most unprecedented year to date, building a virtual learning environment that prioritized compassion amid a devastating pandemic. Under Vardeman’s leadership, Valenti adapted signature events – such as the Impact Awards ceremony and Global Communication Summit – to virtual formats, helping build a sense of community among students and alumni despite external challenges.
“So much has changed about our world in the past year. The struggling job market, growing calls for social justice, and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have made us significantly rethink how to best prepare students for the next generation of communication. I am proud my colleagues and the UH leadership appointed me to this position, and I am committed to continuing to move us forward in this mission,” said Vardeman.
When it comes to leading Valenti forward, Vardeman’s professional and personal histories have prepared her for the task at hand. She regularly explores intersectionality, gender inequality and racial inequality in her research, applying a critical lens to public relations scholarship. One product of her tenure as interim director is Valenti’s first-ever Anti-Racism and -Discrimination Committee, a standing committee that unites faculty, staff and students around developing inclusive, anti-racist policies and initiatives for the school. She has also served on several industry association committees and advisory boards that work to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion across educational, public health, and public relations disciplines. In her spare time, Vardeman has recently volunteered for health and justice organizations, such as the Girls Empowerment Network and Women’s Health Initiative of Texas.
Vardeman’s vision for her tenure as director includes improving Valenti’s research profile as well as advancing professional development opportunities that increase students’ competitiveness in the rapidly changing job market. This will include investing in physical infrastructure, increasing students’ access to scholarships, launching Valenti’s first-ever mentorship program, and much more.
About the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication
The Jack J. Valenti School of Communication at the University of Houston produces next generation storytellers who excel in the new digital era. The school’s alumni pool includes Pulitzer Prize-winning photographers, ESPN sports broadcasters, local news anchors, authors, corporate communication executives, health communicators, public relations professionals, advertising executives, film directors, photographers, videographers and professors. For more information, please visit valenti.uh.edu.