New Appointment: Vice President and Chief Communications Officer


Dear Howard University Community,

Greetings! I am extremely proud to share that, after an extensive national search, Lydia Sermons has been named Vice President and Chief Communications Officer at Howard University. In this role, Ms. Sermons will be a member of the Cabinet and oversee the Office of University Communications, which includes marketing, strategic communications, web design strategy, and editorial storytelling, including Howard Magazine and The Dig.

She begins her new role with the University on February 12.

An award-winning strategic communications executive with more than 25 years of experience leading executive and organizational communications, Sermons will join the University after spending nearly two years as vice president of strategic communications and marketing at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia.

Sermons’ impressive background includes roles with the White House, federal agencies, U.S. Congress, local government, nonprofits, corporate communications firms, and higher education. Having spent time working in Washington, D.C. and possessing a firm understanding of HBCUs, Sermons will be a true asset to Howard University.

Ms. Sermons will be an effective leader in advancing the Howard University mission, bringing a vast amount of experience and knowledge to our institution. After meeting with her, I am certain that, under her leadership, our Office of University Communications will absolutely deliver on telling the Howard University story in innovative ways that truly help people understand the tremendous impact we have on communities here and abroad.

During her time at Spelman College, she restructured the communications team, elevating the function from an office to a division within the college. Under her leadership, she relaunched the monthly campus magazine and achieved significant increases in brand exposure through social, digital, and traditional media, including NPR, ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS Newshour, ESPN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Forbes, Associated Press, HBCU Times, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Prior to her time at Spelman College, Sermons served as vice president of strategic positioning and alignment at PAI, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization that advocates for the rights of women and girls abroad. There, she led the development of organizational strategy and executive communications. She has also served as chief communications strategist for former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, managing the city’s crisis communications responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and racial justice demonstrations.

During President Bill Clinton’s administration, Sermons led White House press for “One America, the President’s Initiative on Race.” As a senior communications advisor during the Obama administration, she managed national healthcare and health equity communications, national observances and events, crisis communications and social media for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health, and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), Office of Regulatory Affairs. As executive director of the National Park Foundation’s African American Experience Fund, she served as a technical advisor to the Obama administration, led historic preservation and storytelling for African American heritage sites, and helped induct new heritage sites into the national park system, including the Colonel Charles Young Home in Ohio and the Harriet Tubman National Historic Trail in Maryland (Eastern Shore).

In addition to being an accomplished professional, Ms. Sermons is actively engaged with her community, having served in leadership with the Parent-Teacher-Student Associations for Westlake High School in Atlanta and Glenn Dale Elementary School in Glenn Dale, Maryland. She has also been a parent volunteer with the Girl Scouts; the Mary Elizabeth House, a Washington, D.C.- based organization that provides housing, education, and employment assistance to teen mothers in foster care; and volunteer with The Scholarship Academy in Atlanta, which offers scholarships to college-bound students in marginalized communities.

Ms. Sermons earned a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Temple University, a Master of Arts in broadcast journalism and public affairs from American University, and a certificate in corporate community relations from Boston College. She is a native of Lowndes County, Georgia, and the mother of three children.

I would like to thank Rashad Young, senior vice president and chief strategy officer, for his time and assistance overseeing the Office of University Communications as interim vice president as we worked to fill the position. Managing two departments simultaneously is a formidable task, and he handled them with remarkable patience, competence, and success.

I also want to extend my sincere appreciation to the search committee for the time dedicated to helping identify such a solid candidate for this key role. Please join me in welcoming Ms. Sermons to Howard University and I look forward to you all seeing the magnificent work that will come out of our Office of University Communications under her leadership.

Read more on The Dig

Committed to Truth and Service,

Ben Vinson III, Ph.D.