With four university degrees and a successful past in the world of media, Joan Harrell has been chosen as Auburn University’s first diversity coordinator, serving the School of Communication and Journalism.
She was offered the title from the director of the School of Communication and Journalism, Jennifer Adams, and began fulfilling the position this year.
As an already well-known lecturer who teaches one class in the fall and two classes in the spring, Harrell wanted to do something more.
When she was offered this title, Harrell was honored.
“My first thought was just, ‘wow,’” Harrell said. “I was literally without words because within the political and social economic landscape of our country and our world, when one speaks to the need for having a diversity coordinator, well, to say that I have a crucial responsibility is an understatement.”
Harrell said because of her past work with broadcast news and freelance writing, she know what it means to be the only person of color and to be the only woman in a space.
“I humbly say I did not take the responsibility lightly when I was offered this position by Jennifer Adams, nor am I taking this position lightly because of the reality of the lack of diversity and voices in media and in the world,” Harrell said.
Sign up for our newsletter
Get The Plainsman straight to your inbox.
With big plans for her first year as the diversity coordinator, Harrell hopes to enhance the academic culture for the School of Communication and Journalism by bringing in guest lecturers that represent several diverse communities.
She also hopes to increase the number of students and faculty of color within the program.
Harrell was raised as an army child in Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown neighborhood. After graduating from Stephens College with a degree in communications media, she worked in the media business for 10 years before going back to school.
Harrell then went back to school at Columbia University, a dream she had always worked toward. She decided to spend her time there learning how to produce documentaries.
Harrell submitted a proposal for a documentary on the impact of HIV and AIDS on faith communities. She teamed up with two other students, Keith Brown, who is now the senior vice president of programming for CNN Headline News, and Suzanne Malveaux, who is now a national correspondent for CNN, to produce a piece about the different faith communities in the New York City area. Richard Kotuck, a famed producer for CBS News, shared their work with the AIDS Quarterly for PBS National, and the documentary went on to be aired nationally following the team’s graduation from Columbia.
After graduating with a master’s in journalism from Columbia, Harrell went on to work with Bill Moyers as a correspondent and producer. She has also worked as an assignment editor for CBS News Bureau and CSPAN in Washington, D.C., a field producer for ABC News Bureau in London and a freelance writer for Essence Magazine and the Huffington Post.
Harrell has a masters degree in divinity from the Interdenominational Theological Center, making her an ordained American Baptist Minister. She also has a doctorate of ministry with an emphasis in public theology from the Chicago Theological Seminary.
Harrell is currently writing for two separate textbooks on narrative ethics that involve Eunice Rivers, an American nurse, and her time spent on the Tuskegee syphilis experiment. She is also working on publishing a book by spring 2020 called “The Untold Story of Eunice Rivers Laurie.”
Beginning in spring 2019, Harrell will be teaching a new course called “Diversity and Democracy” that will be offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 4 p.m.
“I encourage everyone to engage with people that are different from you in conversation,” Harrell said. “Let a person talk and sit back to listen. There are commonalities between everyone.”
Correction: A previous version of this story has an incorrect spelling of Richard Kotuck and referred to Harrell as a fill producer instead of a field producer for ABC. We regret the error.
Do you like this story? The Plainsman doesn't accept money from tuition or student fees, and we don't charge a subscription fee. But you can donate to support The Plainsman.Support The Plainsman