A journalist turned to academia and found a new career working for social justice.
Bonnie M. Brown came to West Virginia University in 1996 as a faculty member of the Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism and has been with WVU ever since. In 2001, she began working with WVU’s Native American Studies Program, in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, hoping to further social justice by promoting awareness of the many issues, challenges and successes, both historic and contemporary, concerning native peoples. She was named program coordinator in 2005.
This work has garnered her the President’s Office for Social Justice’s annual Neil S. Bucklew Award, which recognizes outstanding leadership, courage and support of social justice at WVU.
“There is a Native American tradition of acting with regard for seven generations forward,” Brown said. “If our generation works and plans with these descendants in mind, society will be more just and the future can be better for all.”
She sees her work as going beyond avoiding discrimination.
“I think true social justice, in this academic setting, involves being proactive and contributing to healthy, inclusive dialogs on how to positively influence the quality of life for students and employees,” she said.
“How can we effectively address the need for economic justice? Erase old stigmas attached to mental health issues? Encourage each other to examine history honestly and from multiple perspectives? Create a more welcoming environment for returning veterans? Prevent feelings of marginalization based on sexual orientation?”
“There are so many ways to actively promote social justice on our campus. I encourage everyone to play a stronger role.”
In her role at the University, she has developed and taught courses in Contemporary Native American Issues, Native American Women in Leadership, and Sovereign Tribal Nations. She has also served on the WVU Social Justice Council and the Social Justice Liaisons committee. The provost appointed her to serve on the Foundations of Excellence Program Diversity Committee, and she helped lead the multicultural event “Embracing Spiritual Diversity.”
She helped establish the WVU Black Media Association, a student organization affiliated with the National Association of Black Journalists, and was invited to present as part of a National Public Radio panel on “Expanding Multicultural Coverage and Staff Diversity.”
Before Brown joined the WVU faculty, she was a professor at the University of South Dakota where she produced a live television series called, “Focus on Diversity” in response to racist incidents in the area. She also produced a series that featured Native American artists and musicians called “Windows to a Culture.”
She has participated in the Institutes for the Healing of Racism, the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education, the National Association of Black Journalists and Morgantown’s Community Coalition for Social Justice.
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