Christopher H. Sterling: a protean and prolific presence.

Author:Keith, Michael C.
 
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George Washington University's Christopher H. Sterling has been a ubiquitous and important figure in electronic media education and research for over 35 years. His contributions to both of these areas have been formidable and valuable. Born in Washington, DC, he grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, and attended the University of Wisconsin Madison where he received a doctorate in Communication in 1969. His dissertation (Second Service: A History of Commercial FM Broadcasting to 1969) was among the earliest to focus on the history of the medium, which was just catching on commercially at the time. In the years that followed, Sterling would earn a significant and well-deserved reputation for his commitment to teaching, service, and the expansion of the literature in broadcast and telecommunication studies.

Academic Career

After receiving his doctorate, Sterling became an Assistant Professor of Speech at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, where he directed the development of its graduate program. Just a year later he was invited to join the Radio-Television-Film faculty at Temple University. There, he taught graduate and undergraduate courses in regulation and policy and in media and society for a decade. He took a leave from academe from 1980 to 1982 to serve as Special Assistant to Federal Communications Commissioner Anne P. Jones. At the Commission, Sterling focused on electronic media and international telecommunications issues and policy and assisted in the commissioner's coordination with other FCC offices.

He returned to academe in 1982 and assumed the directorship of George Washington University's Center for Telecommunications Studies. In 1984 he was tenured in the Department of Communication and Theater and taught in the radio-television program. From 1984 to 1994 Sterling served as Director of the university's Graduate Telecommunication Program, where his duties included program development, admissions coordination, and faculty supervision. In 1994 Sterling was appointed Associate Dean of Graduate Affairs at George Washington University's Colombian School of Arts and Sciences and held that position until 2001, when he returned as Director of the Graduate Telecommunication Program. Presently he is Professor of Media and Public Affairs at the university and, to quote him, "Blissfully not administering anything."

Consulting and Industry Activity

An international figure in electronic media and telecommunications studies, Sterling has provided lectures and seminars in Belgium, Britain, Central Europe, China, Monaco, and Spain. Between 1982 and 1984 he led a team that designed a graduate telecommunications curriculum on behalf of the Ministry of Transport and Communications and taught at the University of Simon Bolivar in Caracas, Venezuela. In 1988 he conducted an advanced seminar on American telecommunications policy for French Telecom/Direction de Lenseignement Superior des Telecommunications, with sessions held in Paris, Evry, and Brest. In the summer of 1995 he taught for several weeks at the Telecommunications Policy portion of the Institute of International Studies at the University of Toulouse in France. As a consultant team member, in 1991 he suggested revisions in Chilean telecommunications basic law for the Inter-American Development Bank and Chilean Ministry of Economics and Subministry of Telecommunications.

Since 1994 he has regularly appeared at 2-day to weeklong training seminars in telecommunications held for foreign service officers in the U.S. Department of State in Washington, DC. For the past 15 years he has also offered regular introductory lectures on American communication policy to visiting Third World and Eastern European groups for the U.S. Telecommunications Training Institute in Washington.

Sterling's additional professional experience includes serving as an expert witness in the 1999 Mutual Broadcasting System v. Arlington County case,...

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