The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

The Student Newspaper of Mississippi State University

The Reflector

‘I hate that we’re still having firsts;’ Fisher tells stories of minority PR professionals

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MSU communication professor Melody Fisher.

Melody Fisher, Jackson native and associate professor in Mississippi State University’s Department of Communication, has made a lasting impact through her teachings and research of advocacy for minority groups. 

Fisher attended Tougaloo College to earn her bachelor’s degree in English. Although she came from a long family line of educators, Fisher had no plans of becoming one herself. However, that all changed when she started pursuing her master’s degree in public relations at the University of Southern Mississippi.

“I think being in a classroom dealing with so many different personalities and learning styles and types and being able to successfully navigate that is a calling,” Fisher said. “So I think, even though I didn’t want to admit it before, it was something I was called to do — to be an educator.”

While in graduate school, Fisher was involved with a graduate assistantship within USM. One day, she was asked by her supervisor to act as a substitute for her freshman orientation class. There, Fisher said she discovered a love for teaching. 

“When I stepped in the classroom, I knew I was supposed to be there,” Fisher said. “It was one of those serendipitous experiences where this is exactly what is supposed to happen.”

Now, Fisher works as an associate professor of public relations in the Department of Communication at MSU where she teaches classes, while also pursuing her research concerning minorities and their stories. 

Sarah Colvert, who recently graduated with a master’s degree in public relations from MSU, said that Fisher always fostered an inclusive and welcoming environment in her classroom. Colvert said that Fisher taught her the significance of diversity and inclusion. 

“She’s really shown me that different perspectives can be so valuable and so fundamental in any type of communication research or project, that every perspective should be considered,” Colvert said. 

Fisher recently wrote a book called “The Untold Power: Underrepresented Groups in Public Relations.” The idea for this book came from a research paper Fisher wrote about how textbooks of public relations did not usually show many pioneers from underrepresented groups. 

“From there is where I had the idea of, well, since these introductory textbooks don’t have these groups included, I should write a book that includes all of these groups,” Fisher said. 

Fisher’s book speaks on how underrepresented groups have used public relations tools through social movements in the past, how public relations professionals from underrepresented groups practice public relations in the present and how current students of public relations can become more engaged in the subject by utilizing certain resources. 

Fisher stated that she looked at all underrepresented ethnic and racial groups because it is important to showcase all of their contributions and impacts. She said that it is important for these groups to be featured and reported on so that others can be inspired.

“I hate that we’re still having firsts — the first person to do this and that,” Fisher said. “The only reason why we highlight these trailblazers is because they have never received that attention before, and to be from an underrepresented group and accomplish something, you had to overcome challenges.”

Department of Communication head Terry Likes said Fisher has an important impact in both her teaching and in her research on minority groups and their stories. 

“She’s able to articulate her messages in a clear way to where people admire and respect her not only as a faculty member for her teaching, her research and her service but also as a leader on this campus and in the public relations discipline,” Likes said. 

Pete Smith, an associate communication professor who works alongside Fisher, said Fisher is constantly working on her research and sees it as an integral part of her job. Smith said that Fisher actively contributes to her research, teaching and service and that her book is an excellent example of that. 

“If I need some advice, professionally or personally, she always gives a perspective that maybe you didn’t consider. She’s not afraid to give a perspective that you may not want to hear, but she’s always respectful, both professionally and personally,” Smith said. 

Sarah Colvert said Fisher never asked her students to do something she was not willing to do as well. In one of her graduate classes, Fisher asked Colvert and her classmates to conduct a qualitative research project as a semester long assignment. Then, Fisher decided to join her students in creating a research project from scratch.

Colvert began a job as a lecturer at MSU this semester and said she is implementing some of Fisher’s teachings into her own work. 

“She taught me the importance of caring about the whole person or the whole student, caring for people’s entire academic experience from like, basic needs to mental health to you know, equipping them with everything they need to be a successful student and professional,” Colvert said. 

Colvert first met Fisher in 2020 after COVID moved classes online. She later grew to become more familiar with Fisher as she took more classes with her and entered the public relations graduate program in which Fisher was the graduate coordinator. She even said that one of her favorite memories was when Fisher brought Insomnia cookies to class for her students after finished conducting her own focus group. Colvert said that Fisher was always authentic, inclusive and uplifting toward her students.

Recently, Fisher has been researching the history of the first two Black people to own and operate a public relations agency. Fisher continues to advocate for minorities, and she said that she strives to showcase all underrepresented groups. Fisher hopes others find inspiration in her work.

“I hope they see that they too can accomplish and overcome challenges just like all of those pioneers, I wrote about. If students are reading this, they should know that whatever their goals are, they can accomplish them,” Fisher said.

About the Contributor
Emma Hardy, Contributing Writer
Emma Hardy is a senior communication major. Emma is currently a contributing writer for The Reflector.
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