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Caty Borum Chattoo

Executive Director of the Center for Media & Social Impact, Assistant Professor, American University School of Communication

Caty Borum Chattoo is Executive Director of the Center for Media & Social Impact (CMSI), an innovation lab and research center at American University that creates, showcases and studies media designed for social change; and Assistant Professor at the American University School of Communication in Washington, D.C. She is an award-winning documentary producer, scholar, professor and strategist working at the intersection of social change communication, documentary and entertainment storytelling. Her book about the role of mediated comedy in social change, "A Comedian and An Activist Walk Into a Bar: The Serious Role of Comedy in Social Justice," with co-author Lauren Feldman, was published by University of California Press (2020). Her documentary book, "Story Movements: How Documentaries Empower People and Inspire Social Change," is forthcoming from Oxford University Press (2020).

In 2019, she co-created and launched, with Moore + Associates, the Yes, And Laughter Lab, a creative incubator of comedy for social good, in partnership with Comedy Central. As a documentary producer, her films and TV programs have aired in the U.S. and India. A former philanthropy director and producer with legendary TV producer and activist Norman Lear, program officer at the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Entertainment Media & Public Health program, and senior vice-president in social change communication at global communications agency FleishmanHillard, her peer-reviewed research on the intersection of storytelling, creativity and social change is featured in leading journals in communication and the humanities, including Journal of Communication; Journalism; Media, Culture & Society; Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media; Mass Communication and Society; HUMOR: International Journal of Humor Research, and more. She also serves on the boards of three leading media-serving organizations: The Peabody Awards, Kartemquin Films, and Working Films.


  • –present
    Director of the Center for Media & Social Impact, professor specializing in documentary, media and communication for social change, American University School of Communication


  • 1998 
    University of Pennsylvania, Communication