Exchange program with Howard University to begin in the spring


Howard University/Courtesy

Howard Univesity in Washington, D.C.

By Ann E. Matica, Deputy News Editor

Emerson will launch an exchange program with Howard University in Washington, D.C. in spring 2021 that will allow students from both institutions’ communication schools to enroll in virtual courses.   

Emerson students accepted into the program will be able to choose from 12 courses offered by Howard. Emerson will offer Howard students 31 classes, varying from American Sign Language to a course called “Journalism in 2020: Responding to the Pandemic, Racial Reckoning, and the Campaign,” according to the course list released by Emerson on Oct. 20. 

Under the universities’ original agreement signed in fall 2019, students would have attended classes at the other institution full-time and in person. Now, revised due to COVID-19, the program will allow up to 10 SOC students from each school to dual-enroll and take, at most, two courses virtually, while also attending courses at their own college. The college will continue to offer on-campus housing to Emerson students participating in the program. 

Howard is fully remote this semester; their plans for the spring semester have not yet been announced. Howard’s dean of communications could not immediately be reached for comment. 

The program was announced by Emerson’s School of Communication and the Office of Internationalization and Global Engagement in an email on Oct. 9. 

Founded in 1867, Howard University is a historically Black college comprised of 13 schools with more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Howard’s Cathy Hughes School of Communication has a track record of graduating the most Black communications professionals in the country, according to its website. Their main campus is located two miles from the U.S. capitol building in Northwest Washington D.C. 

Students who wish to apply are required to fill out an application that includes their major, GPA, the reason they would like to participate in the program, and the courses they are interested in taking. The application is open to all students in the School of Communications, including first-year students and remote students. 

“We didn’t want to close the door to freshmen who might want to do this, so we [are going to] offer 200 level, 300 level, and 400 level courses,” Dean of the School of Communications Raul Reis said. “We have a couple of journalism classes and topics courses, and the same with them—they offered a variety. The idea is that students will be enriched by the opportunity.” 

Course credit will transfer to the appropriate college and fulfill requirements they would otherwise take at Emerson.   

Emerson released the course offerings for the exchange program and the application on Oct. 20. Applications were originally due on Oct. 26 but have been extended to Oct. 28 to give students time to discuss registration options with their advisors, according to an email sent out by the college Monday morning. After students are accepted, they will be able to register for courses beginning in early November, ahead of the college’s regular registration, which begins on Nov. 10. 

Tuition prices for courses in the program will remain at each colleges’ usual rates. 

“We didn’t want to make things too complicated for students and also we didn’t want to change the financial aid packages,” Reis said. “So the [Emerson] students will be paying tuition to Emerson, and the Howard students will pay tuition to Howard.”

Reis said that the program made sense as both schools are smaller, well-established private schools. 

“Both of our programs are considered high quality. Howard is considered one of the best, if not the best, HBCU, historically Black colleges and universities in the country,” Reis said. 

In Spring 2019, the college hosted Howard students at Emerson’s Los Angeles campus, where they took dual-enrollment classes. 

Reis said that while visiting ELA last semester, he was able to meet some of the Howard exchange students and attend a class with them before the COVID-19 pandemic forced Emerson to shift all courses online. 

“In March, everything changed, people had to go into virtual classes, but the students still had a good experience,” he said. “And when talking to Gracie, I said, ‘Why don’t we do this virtually since [Howard University] classes are 100% online, and we have several classes that are online? Why don’t we open each other’s classes to our students and let them take them if they want?’” 

Reis said he hopes the schools will be able to house each other’s students in the future. 

“I’m hoping that in the future we’ll be able to do the full exchange, [but] right now, we at least can do a partial exchange,” Reis said.  

The program offers Emerson students who are currently living internationally or would otherwise not want to travel a chance to take part in the virtual program, he said.

Reis first proposed the exchange program to administration after meeting Gracie Lawson-Borders, the dean of the School of Communications at Howard, while speaking on a panel together at an event hosted by the Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication in spring 2019. 

“It occurred to me that students don’t necessarily have to go abroad to have an interesting experience,” Reis said in a Zoom interview. “If [Emerson] had an exchange program with another U.S. institution that was similar to ours but different in other ways, it could be very beneficial for the students.” 

After their initial meeting, Reis said he came up with a proposal for the program and submitted it to Emerson Provost Michaele Whelan for consideration. Soon after, the two schools signed an agreement to begin the program in spring 2021. 

“The way we thought about it originally, after we signed the document, was that our students would be going to Howard for a semester, their students will be coming to us for a semester, and it said in the document that we would like the students to live in the dorms and go to the classes,” Reis said. “It’s pretty much like an international study abroad experience except that our students go to Washington D.C. and their students would either come to Boston or LA. Of course, this was all before the pandemic.” 

UPDATED 10/26: This story was updated to include new information from the college about the application deadline extension