Director's Note to the SMPA Community

January 12, 2020

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Dear SMPA Community, 

After 11 years as director of SMPA, I will step aside after this academic year in order to turn myself to the journalism and creative projects I love but have had so little time to pursue given the responsibilities of this job. I have writing and video projects I want to pursue, and I want to dedicate myself to Planet Forward, which I started 11 years ago but have too little time to give the attention it deserves. For me, the planet is a calling. The climate change/sustainability story is one of epic proportions, an existential challenge to humanity. It is a story of increasing urgency and growing interest. Our opportunities to create deep new narratives, teach and travel with students are more important and exciting than ever. 

I am intensely proud of SMPA and what we have built here. The exceptional research, teaching, learning, convening, and community create a unique and powerful experience. I hope you share in that experience every day. We have a remarkable faculty of acclaimed scholars and award-winning journalists and filmmakers. We offer remarkable opportunities through SMPA fellows, internships, prizes and initiatives. We house leading institutes, centers, and projects that engage media, politics, political communication - and the world.  We benefit from an astonishing network of people who believe in us and support us philanthropically, from our prestigious National Council to so many alumni and friends.

To our SMPA students, given the trends in media, politics, technology, disinformation and the wider world, I can say with total confidence that SMPA’s mission - your mission as students of journalism and political and strategic communication - has never been more relevant or vital. The world desperately needs your creativity and contributions. You really are the architects of the future. And you must build that future on a firm foundation of evidence-based thinking and fact, civil discourse, and spirited but respectful debate.

I will go on sabbatical for a year starting this summer and return to the faculty after that to teach and pursue my projects. I will see plenty of you during the course of the semester ahead. I look forward to that because you inspire me with your commitment and curiosity. You energize me with your interests. And you remind me what it means to be part of a fabulously smart, caring, diverse, and always fascinating family. 

Frank Sesno


GW School of Media and Public Affairs