Vanessa Bravo named assistant dean in the School of Communications

The professor of strategic communications, who begins her new role on June 1, will oversee the school’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts and provide support for assessment.

Vanessa Bravo sits at her desk in Schar Hall at Elon University.
Since her 2011 arrival at Elon, Vanessa Bravo, professor of strategic communications, has been an active and visible member of the School of Communications and the university. Students and colleagues both commend Bravo for her dedicated mentorship and support.

A premier scholar in the fields of transnational communications and public relations has been selected as the School of Communications assistant dean of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and assessment.

In the newly created role, Vanessa Bravo will guide the school’s DEI efforts and provide support for assessment, which is a critical area for school success and the institution’s ACEJMC re-accreditation process.

The professor of strategic communications will provide curricular support for DEI and social justice initiatives, chair the school’s Diversity Committee, publish an end-of-year DEI report, compile assessment data, assist with implementation of the school’s curriculum revisions, and serve as a point of contact for student-related concerns.

As part of her Distinguished Scholar Award Lecture in September, Bravo presented her research on engaged learning to the university community in LaRose Student Commons.

Since her 2011 arrival at Elon, Bravo has been a visible and active member of the university community, developing a reputation as a thoughtful educator while publishing, presenting and volunteering regularly. She has taken on several leadership roles across campus, including chairing the Department of Strategic Communications – the school’s largest academic program – since 2020. Additionally, Bravo has helped lead the Latinx/Hispanic Council and the Latinx Employee Resource Group at Elon.

“I am excited about the position because it will allow me to devote more energy, more intentionality and more time to the School of Communications,” she said. “I will have the opportunity to work on aspects of DEI, in particular, and on aspects related to measuring the outcomes of our work as an academic unit, in general, to move us forward.”

So, why is this new position critical for the school’s success, and why is this the right time to establish such a role? “Because we can always do better, and we have important work to do,” Bravo said.

Kenn Gaither, dean in the School of Communications, praises Bravo for the strong reputation she has cultivated with students and colleagues alike. He cites her as an exemplary teacher-scholar-mentor.

“Vanessa has proven herself to be not only an exceptional researcher but also a committed mentor to students and colleagues,” Gaither said. “She has served as an important voice in our school for several years, and I’m equally impressed with her ability to listen, to build relationships, and to connect with others. It is her collaborative nature that will undoubtedly make her a success in this new assistant dean’s role. Associate Dean Weaver and I look forward to building a stronger, more inclusive School of Communications with her.”

Lee Bush, professor of strategic communications and current chair of the school’s Diversity Committee, lauded both the institution’s commitment to DEI initiatives, as well as its appointment of Bravo to oversee these efforts. She said the school’s Diversity Committee advocated for such a role and leader in its DEI strategic plan.

“Vanessa is an excellent choice. She is well respected by her colleagues for her collaborative leadership approach and for developing and positively moving initiatives forward.”

– Lee Bush, Professor of Strategic Communications

Bush commended Bravo’s past experiences in leadership positions, her track record for teaching, curriculum planning, and assessment; her expertise in public diplomacy and international communications; and her commitment to equity and inclusion initiatives across the university and in the local community.

In collaboration with her colleagues, Bravo said she is committed to implementing an evolving inclusive curriculum to benefit students, as well as supporting faculty as they learn and embrace DEI initiatives, which is “a lifelong process,” she added.

“We need to ensure that we have support systems in place for students of all identities so that they all can thrive while at Elon, resources to break down barriers to equity in opportunities, and an inclusive climate where people truly feel that they belong,” Bravo said.

Bravo’s assistant dean appointment is for two years, but the school hopes to extend it into a permanent position, according to Gaither. Jessalynn Strauss, associate professor of strategic communications, will assume Bravo’s previous role as Department of Strategic Communications chair at the end of the spring semester.

Bravo earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Costa Rica, followed by master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Florida, where she was a Fulbright Scholar (2001-2003). Additionally, she served as a journalist and editor at newspaper La Nacion (Grupo Nacion) in Costa Rica for 14 years in positions such as online editor and features editor. She came to Elon as an assistant professor in 2011, and she was later promoted to associate professor (2017) and professor (2023).

In 2022, Bravo received the Distinguished Scholar Award, which recognizes scholarship acknowledged for its excellence by both the Elon community and the community within the candidate’s discipline. Bravo co-edited a 2021 book, titled “Latin American Diasporas in Public Diplomacy,” which examines the different strategic roles that diaspora groups play in modern public diplomacy.