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Lydia Sermons, VP of Communications

Lydia G. Sermons, M.A. (She/Her)

VP of Communications & Chief Communications Officer

  • Office of University Communications


Lydia is an award-winning strategic communications executive with more than 25 years of experience leading executive and organizational communications in complex environments, groundbreaking global strategic communications and marketing strategies, brand elevation and advocacy campaigns, crisis communications, and change management. Her experience spans across The White House, federal agencies, the U.S. Congress, mayoral offices, national nonprofit organizations, public relations firms, and academia.
She will join Howard University as Vice President and Chief Communications Officer on February 12 after serving for nearly two years as Vice President of Strategic Communications and Marketing at Spelman College. Her key accomplishments include restructuring, expanding, and upskilling the Communications team and elevating the communications function from an office to a division. Under her leadership, Spelman has achieved significant increases in brand exposure through social, digital, and traditional media placements, including NPR, ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS Newshour, ESPN, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Atlanta Journal Constitution, Forbes, Associate Press, HBCU Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education) and other media outlets. She has effectively helped the College navigate crises, relaunch the monthly campus magazine publications, elevate though leadership and plan major high visibility campus events.
Before joining Spelman College, Lydia served as Vice President of Strategic Positioning and Alignment at PAI, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit organization that advocates for the rights of women and girls abroad, where she led the development of organizational strategy and executive communications. Previously, she served in the Cabinet of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms as Chief Communications Strategist and led the Mayor’s Office of Communications, the City’s crisis communications responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, and racial justice demonstrations. She also developed and led the implementation of the City’s Department of Watershed Management’s city-wide campaign to reauthorize Atlanta’s Municipal Option Sales Tax (MOST) Referendum during the 2020 General Primary Election. The MOST generates $125 million + annually for City water infrastructure improvements.
During President Bill Clinton’s Administration, she led White House press for One America, the President’s Initiative on Race. As a senior Communications Advisor during the Obama Administration, she led national healthcare and health equity communications, national observances and events, crisis communications and social media for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health, and the Federal Drug
Administration (FDA), Office of Regulatory Affairs. As Executive Director of the National Park Foundation’s African American Experience Fund, she served as a technical advisor to the Obama Administration, led historic preservation and storytelling for African American heritage sites, and helped induct new heritage sites into the national park system, including the Colonel Charles Young Home in Ohio and the Harriet Tubman National Historic Trail in Maryland (Eastern Shore).
Earlier in her career, Lydia spearheaded a large-scale brand transformation campaign for the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and developed the communications plan for the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V). Under her stewardship, media placements and marketing outreach increased significantly and resulted in numerous Public Relations Society of America Chapter awards. At the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, Inc., she devised an advocacy campaign that led to Congressional hearings and changes in financial consumer protection policies. As a Congressional press secretary, she worked on higher education, national defense, agriculture, and urban cities issues, and co-authored a congressional resolution to commemorate June as Black Music Month. Her communications career began in television production in Philadelphia, PA, and New Haven, Connecticut for CBS, and ABC TV stations.  
Lydia’s commitment to community service includes leading the Parent-Teacher-Student Associations for Westlake High School in Atlanta, GA and Glenn Dale Elementary School in Glenn Dale, MD. She has served as a Girl Scout parent volunteer and previously served on the Board of Directors for the Mary Elizabeth House in Washington, DC, which provides housing, education, and employment assistance to teen mothers in foster care; and The Scholarship Academy, which offers scholarships to college-bound students in marginalized communities. The P World’s Global PR Summit, Boot Camp on Crises Communications, and the national 2023 Communicators Network Conference in Atlanta, GA, are among her recent speaking engagements.
Lydia earned a B.A. in Communications from Temple University, a Master of Arts in Broadcast Journalism and Public Affairs from American University, and a Certificate in Corporate Community Relations from Boston College. She is a native of South Georgia (Lowndes County), and a former resident of Philadelphia, PA, and the Washington, DC metro area, where she returns, after living in Atlanta, GA since 2019.

Education & Expertise



Communications (Broadcast Journalism and Public Affairs)
American University, Graduate School of Communications


Communications (Radio/TV/Film)
Temple University, School of Communications and Theater