Interracial Communication Scholar Tina M. Harris Receives National Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Lives of Women in Communication

November 19, 2020

Photo of Tina Harris

BATON ROUGETina M. Harris, the LSU Manship School of Mass Communication’s Douglas L. Manship Sr.-Dori Maynard Race, Media, and Cultural Literacy Endowed Chair, is the 2020 recipient of the Francine Merritt Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Lives of Women in Communication. Presented annually by the National Communication Association’s (NCA) Women’s Caucus Interest Group, this award honors a scholar who has made a difference in the field of communication through mentoring, service, advocacy, teaching and scholarship.

“I am excited and honored to be the fourth or fifth African American woman to receive this award in its 29-year history,” Harris said. “While this tells me we as a discipline have come a long way, it also tells me that we have a long way to go when it comes to representation and recognition.”

For nearly 25 years, Harris’ work as an interracial communication scholar has informed and expanded scholarship and practice in this area. She is the co-author of the textbook, “Interracial Communication: Theory Into Practice” and is currently co-authoring a textbook on public speaking. Harris has authored journal articles and book chapters on diversity, equity and inclusion; intersectionality in the classroom; allyship and race in the U.S.; and the use of film to teach students about the issue of race. Additionally, among Harris’ more than 30 teaching and research accolades, she was also the recipient of NCA’s 2019 Robert J. Kibler Memorial Award for dedication to excellence, commitment to the profession, concern for others, vision, acceptance of diversity and forthrightness.

When Harris joined the LSU Manship School in fall 2019 as the Manship-Maynard Endowed Chair in Race, Media, and Cultural Literacy, she assumed the first and only position of its kind in the nation. She studies issues related to diversity, access and social justice in media and society. Harris challenges students to think critically about how race informs and influences their communication and relationships. Her research reflects a commitment to identifying and unpacking stereotypes, prejudice and elements of racism in the media and working toward dismantling those systems of oppression.

“Dr. Harris’ work empowers our community to lead and support research, dialogue and action that prioritize inclusivity, cultural competence, diversity and equity,” Josh Grimm, interim dean of the LSU Manship School, said. “We salute Dr. Harris and are thrilled she has received national recognition for her important contributions.”

Harris’ chair recently received competitive matching funds from the Louisiana Board of Regents. This gift amplified the Manship family’s donation, along with gifts from many other generous donors, by $800,000, bringing the total impact of the fund to $2.6 million. With this generous support, Harris and the Manship School will continue to advance conversations on race, media and cultural literacy and fulfill the School’s mission of preparing the next generation of ethical, knowledgeable and inclusive media practitioners.

“The end goal is to teach classes and produce research that ask and possibly answer the difficult questions that many people are asking when it comes to how we can communicate across and through our racial, ethnic and cultural differences,” Harris said. I want people to understand that there are systems of oppression that affect us all differently, some people more than others. Rather than place blame, harbor guilt or nurse anger, I hope that the work I do breaks down ignorance and apathy and opens up the floodgates of compassion and allyship.”

Read more about Harris on the Manship School's blog.

Read more about previous winners of the Francine Merritt Award, named after Francine Merritt, who taught at LSU from 1947-1984 in what was then the Department of Speech. The award is presented annually by NCA’s Women’s Caucus Interest Group at the association’s annual convention in November.

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LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication ranks among the strongest collegiate communication programs in the country, with its robust emphasis on media and public affairs. It offers undergraduate degrees in public relations, journalism, political communication, digital advertising and pre-law, along with four graduate degree programs: Master of Mass Communication, Ph.D. in Media and Public Affairs, Certificate of Strategic Communication and dual MMC/Law degree. Its public relations students were recently ranked the #1 team in the nation, and its digital advertising and student media teams frequently earn national recognition.