Phylicia Rashad Is Stepping Down As Howard University’s College of Fine Arts Dean After 3 Years


By Aria Bell

Phylicia Rashad has fulfilled her agreement with Howard University as the Dean of the institution’s College of Fine Arts following the spring commencement ceremony.

Three years ago, Rashad helped to revive the fine arts program she was once a part of by stepping into the role of dean. Initially, the Houston native was unsure if she could fully commit to the role. On May 10, Rashad sat down with fellow Howard alumna Lesli Foster, who is now a news anchor at WUSA9, to discuss the work she’s done at her alma mater and what’s next.

Before playing the beloved Claire Huxtable on The Cosby Show, Rashad graduated in 1970 before becoming a household name.

The College of Arts had been removed two decades ago, according to WUSA9. Many people advocated for it to be re-established — one of those people being the late Chadwick Boseman, whom Radhad mentored.

“He said, yes it’s going to be coming back. It’s going to be reestablished, and I think you should be the dean. I looked at him and laughed, I did. I said, please. ‘Chile, please,’” she told Foster.

After Boseman’s passing, Rashad had a change of heart. She honored Boseman’s life and career by naming the school’s new College of Fine Arts after him.

“His name is not here because he was ‘Black Panther,’ his name is here because he was a scholar,” she explained. “As a student, he wanted to know everything there was to know about theater, about art, about music.”

Rashad knew it would be a huge undertaking, but she was up for the challenge.

“The biggest thing in arriving as dean to this unit that had not been its own unit for over two decades, was there was no infrastructure,” she said.

She also had to do a lot of fundraising and build sustainable partnerships with corporate sponsors.

“One of the things that I hoped to do was to create a narrative, a narrative that would expand understanding of what the arts are, their value to humanity and their academic value to this institution,” she said.

Many will argue that Rashad did just that as she found crafty ways to build a community-focused college that encourages students their dreams are obtainable through hard work. In her three-year run as dean, Rashad helped to broker a $5.4 million deal with Netflix for a memorial scholarship to celebrate Boseman’s legacy. In addition, she used her famous name and face to bring A-list talent on campus to help educate students.

Rashad says she isn’t sure what’s in store, but the unknown is part of the excitement.

“It’s what I don’t know that interests me most,” she said.