Communications studies professor Tina Harris teaches UGA students about their country, their society and themselves:
Many students enter UGA with limited notions about the world as it exists beyond their own experience. Serious discussions about bias, privilege, race and class require great skill and grace in any setting. For communication studies professor Tina M. Harris, the classroom provides both a refuge and forum to help students gain an understanding about who they are and how they engage with the world around them.
"We talk about power, how power is constructed and how there are certain groups that benefit more so than others, not to make any students feel guilty but to be proud because that's who you are, so don't minimize that," Harris said. "We need to recognize and discuss the fact that there are groups who have been historically marginalized, and they do not have access to opportunities and resources that the majority group does. And this is not just an issue in the U.S., but around the world."
For Harris, the tension of those unsettling and sometimes uncomfortable early discussions is balanced by the openness and liberation of learning on the part of her students she also gets to experience.
"I'm blessed to be a part of that awakening in so many of them," she said. "Often they thank me, but in so many ways, I am at least as fortunate as they are."
Hers is an amazingly difficult job, because so many students are learning about race and privilege for the very first time. We can be glad they are being exposed to reality as college students, and these courses change lives. In many ways, this is what the university is for. But we should also be grateful for Dr. Harris, her patience, understanding and desire to be the profesor in that room when those conversaitons happen. Truly an inspired teacher and a rare individual.
Image: Photo of Dr. Tina Harris by Rick O'Quinn.