By Alexis Taylor
Special to the AFRO
Maryland is now home to two of five educators recognized by PRNEWS for their work in the communications field at HBCUs.
David Marshall, professor and chair of Morgan State University’s (MSU) department of strategic communications (SCOM) and president of the Maryland chapter of the Public Relations Society of America, received the Outstanding HBCU Educator of the Year Award this week.
Marshall was nominated alongside Hampton University’s James Ford, Virginia Union’s Heidi Wilson, and Talisha Dunn-Square of Bowie State University.
“It was an honor just to be nominated,” said Marshall. “It’s always nice to have your work recognized- especially when it’s the meaningful work of helping young people move into their careers and become leaders in our community.”
“The things we do in the HBCU setting have meaning.”
Marshall earned a bachelor’s degree in religious studies from MSU in 1987, but quickly realized he was a natural in the art of communications.
The seasoned journalist, broadcast news reporter, and producer caught the teaching bug while earning a master of journalism and a doctorate of mass media and communications at Temple University in Philadelphia.
Through the years Marshall has had multiple professorships and deanships, three chairmanships, and even one three-year term as president of the International College of the Cayman Islands.
It was the death of Freddie Gray that brought the self-described “hometown boy” back to Charm City.
“I felt that I needed to come back to Baltimore to do something. I wasn’t sure what that ‘something’ was but I felt like I needed to help out my city during this critical time,” said Marshall. “That’s when Morgan found me.”
Marshall was praised by PRNEWS for his work in getting HBCU students a seat at the table.
The group considers themselves the “leading source of information, education, recognition and data for Fortune 1000 professionals, agencies and government or non-profits.”
“Each year for the past three years, the employment rate for graduates of Morgan State’s Department of Strategic Communication—of which Marshall is Chair—has been 90 percent or better,” said PRNEWS, in their introduction of this year’s Corporate Social Responsibility & Diversity Award winners.
Marshall said that creating pipelines for students of color to go directly from the classroom to the newsroom and other communications jobs is essential in fair and accurate reporting.
“We can see the evidence of what comes out of largely White newsrooms in the framing of things,” he said, citing that too often Black people are only included in reports about crimes or health crises.
“In a city like Baltimore, reporting on crime without reporting on redlining and historical racism has kept Black and Brown people in Baltimore from succeeding, as if one does not have an influence on the other.”
“How do we talk about the ‘highway to nowhere’ in the middle of West Baltimore without talking about the racist practices that had to happen to get all of those Black homeowners out to build the highway?” quipped Marshall. “That piece is important.”
Dunn-Square, like Marshall, is also a Maryland HBCU educator with a firm belief in diversifying the communications field.
Citing a slew of marketing fails as evidence, Moore said having people of color in advertising departments across the country would go a long way in stamping out offensive and racially insensitive messages that seem to slip through the cracks of corporate America.
“It’s important for us to have that seat at the table because representation matters. It’s cliche- I know, but it’s true,” said Dunn-Square. “We need to have people at the table and not just one, but a few.”
“People aren’t necessarily worrying about how we feel about things. The bottom line is the sale, but if you’re serious about being inclusive, being diverse, and having equity, you have to have people who look like us at the table.”
Dunn-Square is author of A (PR)actical Guide to Social Media and said that in a time where social media has been at the crux of so much social change, understanding how to operate each platform is imperative for aspiring professionals in the communications field.
Dunn-Square was recognized by PRNEWS as an educator proven to “inspire and have positive impacts on the lives of their students.” She is known for creating hands-on learning experiences for future communications professionals of color.
In 2018, when a new studio for WBSU Bulldog Nation radio station opened, her publicity techniques class became a live public relations firm. They planned everything from proposals and press releases to the ribbon cutting, affording real-world experience in a classroom setting.
According to the Bureau of Labor, the average annual salary for jobs in media and communications was $61,310 in May 2020. Even behind-the-scenes positions such as “broadcast and sound engineering technicians, film and video editors, and photographers” had a median wage of $50,870 last year, thousands more than the annual wage of $41,950 for all other occupations.
From reporters, announcers, and translators, to public relations specialists, technical writers, influencers, and interpreters, exposure to the many jobs under the communications umbrella is crucial for Black and brown students.
“As an anchor institution in Baltimore which has an obligation to our public schools in the city, we feel burdened to introduce these exciting careers. We have a responsibility to expose them to what the opportunities are and after the exposure the student can decide,” he said. “Right now, we are really limiting their options. We’re only showing them one page of a four page menu.”
Marshall said his next goal is to train successful entrepreneurs in the Black community by integrating business courses into programming offered by his department at MSU.
“We see a future where we are doing more business integration into strategic communication,” he said. “We really want to start putting in the minds of young people that they don’t have to work for someone else.”