Cronkite school names Battinto L. Batts Jr. as incoming dean

Batts, the director of journalism strategies at the Scripps Howard Foundation, will assume the role July 1

Battinto L. Batts Jr. has been named the next incoming dean at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He will start his new role on July 1. 

The incoming dean was selected after participating in an invite-only Zoom call in April and a public student panel with around a dozen students on May 7 as part of the school’s search for a permanent dean. 

In the closed-door session, Batts said he will bring a focus on diversity and inclusion within the Cronkite school and will continue to build relationships with students and the community. He's spoken previously about supporting student mental health and making sure students feel equally challenged as they do supported by administrators. 

"I am super excited to have been chosen as the dean of the Cronkite school, and I am looking forward to working with everyone there, especially the students and the faculty in Cronkite and across campus," Batts told The State Press. 

In a press release about his appointment, Batts said he offers "additional personal perspectives and insights that are particularly relevant, given the university's commitment to address issues related to underrepresented groups and individuals." 

READ MORE: Cronkite School hosts open student meeting with leading dean candidate

Batts said being raised in Virginia near a historically Black college gave him access to mentors and role models who were invested in education and seeing others succeed. He hopes to mentor Cronkite students, particularly those of color. 

Last year was the first time the Cronkite school searched for a new dean since its founding under Dean Christopher Callahan. Four candidates gave public presentations, and Sonya Forte Duhé was named the school's new dean in March 2020.  

After a series of tweets condemning Duhé’s response to the Black Lives Matter movement, a State Press investigation found an alleged history of racist, homophobic and insulting comments, according to 23 of her former students. Duhé’s offer was rescinded, and the Cronkite school resumed the search for a permanent dean. 

READ MORE: Incoming Cronkite dean has alleged history of racist, homophobic comments toward students

Batts has held numerous positions in academia and newsrooms over the course of his career, and he has held the position of director of journalism strategies at the Scripps Howard Foundation since 2016.

In 2018, the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism was founded at Cronkite as part of a $6 million investment by the Scripps Howard Foundation under Batts' direction. 

Prior to his position as director at the Scripps Howard Foundation, he worked at the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications at Hampton University as assistant dean for academic affairs, directed The William R. Harvey Leadership Institute and was a professor. 

Batts also has over 15 years of experience in reporting and editing at local newspapers, including The Virginian-Pilot, the Tampa Bay Times and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

"We're thrilled that Dr. Batts will be the next dean of the Cronkite School," Cronkite Interim Dean Kristin Gilger said in a statement. "He's exactly the kind of leader we need to move the school forward, building on the great foundation built by founding Dean Christopher Callahan."

Incoming Provost Nancy Gonzales said in the press release that journalism is important to the health of any society and shaping the next generation of reporters and media professionals "requires a vision for and commitment to inclusion and excellence."

University President Michael Crow made similar marks of praise, writing in the statement he hopes Batts will fit in with the school's charter and similar missions which center education as a source of opportunity and ideas.

"Access to and the free exchange of ideas aren’t just a part of education; they are the lifeblood of journalism and Batts is well poised to expand those opportunities," Crow said in the statement. 

Politics editor Piper Hansen contributed to the reporting of this article.

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