The professor of strategic communications and A.J. Fletcher Professor in Communications succeeds Dean Rochelle Ford, who was recently selected as the eighth president of Dillard University.
Kenn Gaither, professor of strategic communications and A.J. Fletcher Professor in Communications, has been named interim dean of the School of Communications. He will succeed Dean Rochelle Ford, who will become the eighth president of Dillard University, Louisiana’s first historically black university, on July 1.
Since joining the faculty at Elon in 2004, Gaither has been a visible and active member of the School of Communications, earning promotions to associate professor in 2010 and full professor in 2016. In 2021, his contributions to the university were formally acknowledged with an endowed professorship – the A.J. Fletcher Professorship in Communications. The honor recognized his continued excellence as a teacher, mentor, scholar and peer educator. In addition to his work in the classroom, Gaither has previously served as director of the Communications Fellows program and concluded a decade-long tenure as associate dean in 2020.
Gaither expressed excitement for his new role and noted the strong leadership the school has enjoyed since its inception, referencing both Ford and Paul Parsons, the school’s founding dean.
“It is an honor to follow the extraordinary leadership the School of Communications has maintained over the years,” Gaither said. “My goal is to honor our past but embrace our future by providing continuity and catalyzing our momentum.”
Following a successful career in public relations, Gaither received his doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he was a Park Fellow and recognized as a top doctoral student. He arrived at Elon as an assistant professor and has taught undergraduate and graduate level courses – an ability and versatility that has led colleagues to call him a “Swiss Army Knife.”
In courses such as Communications in a Global Age, Public Relations/Corporate Citizenship, a senior seminar in international public relations and Public Opinion through New Media, Gaither has consistently received high marks from his students. He has also participated in study abroad programs in Brazil and Turkey, and co-taught the Holocaust Journey course in Europe in Winter Term 2022.
In 2021, Gaither was named to the Board of Advisors for The Plank Center for Leadership in Public Relations, a leading resource in PR industry. In spring 2022, he was also selected as one of six finalists for the PRNews Outstanding Educator of the Year award, which honors communicators who use their platforms to better their own community and the global community at large.
In the local community, Gaither has participated in Alamance County Meals on Wheels. He also is involved in the wider academic community serving on the international editorial advisory board for the quarterly peer-reviewed journal, Journalism & Mass Communication Educator. Additionally, he co-authored “Globalization and Public Relations in Postcolonial Nations: Challenges and Opportunities,” a 2012 book that explored how postcolonial nations use public relations to benefit citizens and communicate across cultures.
Gaither earned his bachelor’s in English writing and Portuguese with a Certificate of Latin American Studies in 1993, his M.F.A. in literary journalism in 2000 from the University of Pittsburgh and his doctorate from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2004.