Virginia Tech names John Tedesco new director of School of Communication
He’s been a faculty member in the School of Communication since 1999, where he’s held the position of professor in the public relations division since 2013. He was previously the director of graduate studies and director of research and outreach in the Department of Communication from 2004-09 and 2009-13, respectively.
“I am so pleased that Dr. Tedesco will be leading the School of Communication during the next stage of its impressive growth,” said Laura Belmonte, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. “The school is booming, and John has the skills and experience to keep building capacity without compromising the exceptional teaching and hands-on learning that are hallmarks of its programs.”
Tedesco will succeed Robert E. Denton Jr., who has led the School of Communication to new heights for 21 years. Denton retired at the end of this academic year after 34 years at Virginia Tech. Douglas Cannon had served as interim director until Tedesco assumed the position.
“We’re at a really exciting time for the School of Communication,” Tedesco said. “The vision is to build, strengthen, and be recognized for the important work that our faculty are doing in communication. We’re positioned to make an immediate impact.”
Tedesco’s academic research focuses on political advertising and political public relations. Over his career, he’s displayed proficiency in securing grants totaling more than $1 million in funding from a number of institutes, including the National Science Foundation and the Charles Koch Foundation.
Tedesco assumes leadership in a burgeoning School of Communication. Formerly a department, the school officially received its designation in 2020. Since then, the school’s reputation continues to have vibrant growth, including a record-number of applications for the fall 2022 admissions cycle.
“It’s a really exciting time for communication education because students are realizing that communication is cross-cutting,” Tedesco said. “Students need to have strength communicating across all the different forms of media. As the media landscape continues to develop and expand, our talented faculty are keeping pace with the rapid evolution of media sources and innovations.
“As much as data is driving much of business, it’s also driving the media industries — the clicks, the click-throughs, all those types of visits and message impressions — are really important to communicators. We have to understand the science behind audience behaviors while using various media and the effectiveness of messages across different platforms.”
The School of Communication is home to five majors: advertising, communication, multimedia journalism, public relations, and sports media and analytics. During his time as a professor, Tedesco has taught undergraduate classes in media and politics, public relations campaigns, and communication research, among others.
The sports media and analytics major, in particular, has been a big draw for students looking to become professional sports journalists since its inception as a degree option in 2020. Evan Hughes, a 2021 alumnus, highlighted the immense talent of the school’s students in the major by winning the 2021 Jim Nantz Award, which honors the top collegiate sports broadcaster in the nation.
A key task for Tedesco in his position will be continuing to establish the sports media and analytics major along with the new advertising major. Launched in 2021, the advertising degree represents an exciting opportunity for students in the School of Communication. They are eager to learn the discipline of advertising with aspirations to work for agencies in the ever-expanding field.
“Sports media and advertising are impacted significantly by the numbers, the reach, the audience share, the impressions of ads,” Tedesco said. “It’s important that our students understand not only the mechanics to create a good media product or a good advertisement, but also understand the impact that their messages are having on the public or communities they want to reach and impact in some way.”
The School of Communication features two graduate programs with master’s degrees in communication and reputation management. Tedesco has taught at the graduate level, including courses in communication theory, crisis communication and issues management, and campaign communication. He’s served as a thesis advisor for 46 master’s students since 2002.
“We’re unique in having a specific reputation management master’s degree,” Tedesco said. “I’m excited that there’s increasing enrollment in both of our graduate degree programs. We’ve had a reputation of being a great feeder program for doctoral institutions. We want to retain that identity, but we also want to make sure we have a master’s program that gives ample applied opportunities for students so they can be successful media professionals if they pursue careers in the media market place.”
Furthermore, Tedesco intends to build faculty with strategic hires and create a research identity across the university and academic communities with a united communication center for research. He also understands the need to continue building partnerships, both with other units across campus and with industry contacts.
Tedesco’s professional background includes roles as a journalist and a public relations coordinator. He is accredited in public relations by the Public Relations Society of America.
He’s published a number of books, book chapters, journal articles, encyclopedia entries, and competitive papers. He currently serves as chair for student papers in the International Academy of Business Disciplines. Tedesco was recognized by the academy in 2021 as the Outstanding Track Chair. In the past, he served as a panel reviewer for the Austrian Science Foundation and was chair of political communication for the National Communication Association and the Eastern Communication Association.
Tedesco received his Ph.D. in communication from the University of Oklahoma in 1996. He earned his master’s degree in communication in 1992 and bachelor’s degrees in English literature and communication and rhetoric from the University at Albany, State University of New York, in 1989.