Christopher Sterling

Dr. Christopher Sterling

Faculty: Emeriti

Associate Dean, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences

Professor Emeritus of Media and Public Affairs
Professor Emeritus of Public Policy and Public Administration

Born in Washington, DC and raised in Madison, Wisconsin, Christopher Sterling did not have early designs on becoming an academic.  Though the son of an academic, Professor Sterling had initial plans of pursuing a career in broadcast journalism.  Yet, after completing his bachelor’s degree in political science at the University of Wisconsin, Madison and continuing with a master’s degree in Communication, he began to engage with academia in a different way, through teaching and research.  Sterling observes, “I discovered I liked it on this side of the desk as opposed to the other side of the desk.  And I began to turn on.” 

After a brief stint as an Assistant Professor of Speech at the University of Utah, a ten-year career as a Professor of Communication at Temple University in Philadelphia, and stint as a Special Assistant to Federal Communications Commissioner, Professor Sterling arrived at George Washington University in 1982 to begin a position as the Director of the Center for Telecommunications.  Sterling recalls the recruiting process vividly, remarking, “I got a call out of the blue from the Dean of Continuing Education…Totally out of the blue…I came down on a day I’ll never forget.  Because this was a multidisciplinary center, I had to interview about five of the deans of the different schools for the job.  So five job interviews…I remember vividly every one of those discussions and stayed in touch with some of the people over time.”

Since 1982, Professor Sterling’s career has flourished. He has served as the Director of the Graduate Telecommunication Program, Acting Chairman of the Department of Communication, Associate Dean for Graduate Affairs, and, most recently, as Associate Dean for Special Projects.  He has published countless articles, books, and monographs and serves as an editor for Communication Booknotes Quarterly, INFO: The Journal of Policy, Regulation and Strategy for Telecommunications, Information, and Media, and The Telecommunications Series, among many others.  In fact, this extensive publication history is what Sterling cites as his most significant contribution to his field of study.  “Most of us who publish would say our publications are probably the most important thing because, if they’re any good at all, they’ll last long after we’re gone.” He continues, “In recent years, all of it has been reference works.  Multivolume things where I edit, and I mean edit, almost every line.  But also contribute substantially, do a lot of writing myself.  The current entry in Radio and Encyclopedia Britannica is largely mine, as another example.  So I’ve done a melding of research writing and reference writing, and I hope some of that lasts.”

Professor Sterling cites the National Building Museum and “a little grotto in the trees at the foot of Capitol Hill” as his favorite places in DC, a city that, according to him, offers opportunities to students unavailable anywhere else.  Professor Sterling is also fascinated by a wide variety of topics, including military and aviation history, the biography of Winston Churchill, Mayan archaeology, and classic 1930's cars.  Though he will continue his work as Associate Dean of Columbian College, Professor Sterling has a variety of plans for the future, including dreams of traveling to southern Europe, Machu Picchu, New Zealand, and Australia.


B.S., Political Science, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1965
M.S., Communication, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1967
Ph.D., Communication, University of Wisconsin, Madison, 1969