There’s a lot of things that Sonya Forte Duhé will miss about her home state of Louisiana: Mardi Gras, muffulettas and the cuisine of the Crescent City.
But her new gig at Arizona State University was just too tasty to pass up. She is joining ASU as CEO of Arizona PBS and dean of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, beginning in July.
“I hope to bring to the Cronkite School a little bit of spice,” said Duhé. “It’s an incredible honor and opportunity because the job carries with it an awesome responsibility to uphold the values of the school’s namesake.”
Duhé will replace founding Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan, who led the transformation of the Cronkite School into one of the nation’s top programs. In November 2019, Callahan was announced as the next president of University of the Pacific, the oldest chartered institution of higher education in California.
“The school will transition to very capable hands,” said ASU Executive Vice President and University Provost Mark Searle. “Dr. Duhé brings a wealth of leadership, academic, and professional experiences to this position, and I am confident she will be a strong leader for school, leading it to a bright future.”
Duhé serves as director in the School of Communication and Design at Loyola University New Orleans, where she began her tenure in August 2009. There, she also is the A. Louis Read Distinguished Professor of Communications, an endowed professorship.
Her decade-long tenure at Loyola was transformational. A year ago, her school added art, graphic design and digital filmmaking to its departments of journalism and strategic communication, which includes advertising, public relations and visual communication. On her watch, the school has undergone successful accreditation reviews and revised its curriculum both on-ground and online, and it raised more funds than ever in its 75-year history. Those efforts secured money for renovations, a state-of-the-art broadcast studio, student scholarships, technology and travel. The school also launched the Loyola News Service, the Gray Media Producer Incubator Program and several professional-in-residence programs.
Duhé led the conversion of their nearly 100-year-old university newspaper into an award-winning multiplatform newsroom that produces daily, digitally streamed “Maroon Minute” broadcasts. Loyola also launched Brand Lab, which offers services to for-profit clients. Duhé also envisioned and implemented the “Den of Distinction,” an alumni hall of fame.
She said leaving the job is bittersweet.
“Louisiana is home for me, and I love the people here, and I love Loyola,” Duhé said. “I came here in a post-Katrina world, and this university was about helping the city to rebuild and the university to rebuild. We’ve had so much support from the city, alums and from our friends, so I will miss all of that … but you know, it’s only a three-hour flight away.”
Before joining Loyola, Duhé served as a communications assistant to the University of South Carolina president, associate vice president in the Office of Research and Health Sciences and special assistant to the provost for strategic directions and initiatives. Duhé was a faculty member there in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications and the School of the Environment.
Duhé’s efforts in the academy extend well beyond her campus contributions. She has been significantly involved in service to the discipline. Currently, she serves as vice chair of the accrediting committee of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications. In 2017-18, she served as president of the Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication. She served on the board of directors of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication and the Radio Television Digital News Association. She also serves on the board of directors of the Louisiana Association of Broadcasters.
The award-winning former television news reporter and anchor is nationally recognized as a leader in strategic communications training for both the public and private sectors. Her research emphasis is applied broadcast research and science journalism, including risk and crisis communications.
Duhé said the Cronkite School is a dynamic place with fabulous faculty, students and staff.
“I cannot think of a more important and exciting time in journalism and mass communication education than now,” said Duhé. “It plays such a vital role in our democracy. I cannot think of another profession I would rather be in at this time.”
Duhé knows what it’s like to be a journalism student. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in journalism in 1983 from Louisiana State University and her Master of Science in journalism in 1984 from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. After working for several years in TV news as a reporter, anchor and public affairs show host, Duhé received her PhD in journalism in 1993 from the University of Missouri. At Missouri, she served as an instructor and chief faculty editor and anchor at the university-owned NBC affiliate.
She said teaching came naturally to her at almost every professional post she held.
“I have always been an educator,” Duhé said. “When I worked in television, I always took the interns under my wing. I love helping people succeed, and I want to permeate that not just through our students but through our faculty. To me, a great leader is someone who helps everyone fulfill and utilize their personal potential.”
Duhé is married to Lester A. Duhé Jr. They have two sons, Lester and Vincent.
In whatever spare time she has, Duhé said she plays the piano, likes to run and is a health coach.
“I’m a wife, a mother, a reporter, a leader and an educator, and I like my world to have balance,” Duhé said. “Life to me is all about balance.”
This story was originally published on ASU Now.