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Alexa Harris Receives DMIS Celebration of Excellence Award

April 2016

Alexa HarrisAlumna Alexa A. Harris, C'2007, is an author, producer and consultant with a myriad of experiences in media and communications. As the first Black woman to graduate from her high school in its 30+ year history, she came to Spelman College in Atlanta and majored in comparative women’s studies. Her focus, “documenting women and digital media,” was learned not only in the classroom but through many practical experiences.

Harris completed internships and freelance positions with media organizations in departments ranging from accounting, marketing, and production to promotions, music, and public relations. Additionally, Harris co-produced a documentary about Black women and eating disorders through the Digital Moving Image Salon (DMIS) and contributed to an anthology about Black women in the south with the Spelman Independent Scholars (SIS) oral history program prior to graduation. Almost a decade after her graduation, Harris will be honored with the DMIS 2016 Celebration of Excellence Award.

Upon graduating from Spelman, Harris ventured to Syracuse University where she completed a joint masters degree program in documentary film and history at the S.I. Newhouse School of Communications and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. While at Syracuse, she conducted research with the Syracuse College of Law’s Cold Case Justice Initiative, a project with the mission of reinvestigating murders from the Civil Rights era. Harris also produced and directed a documentary about the program, highlighting the story of Mrs. Johnnie Mae Chappell, a mother of 10 killed during the movement.

Additionally, her thesis film was about education in the south during the post-civil war era. In it, she told the story of Ms. Della Hayden, an educator and “lady principle” of Virginia Normal Institute (now Virginia State University). To fulfill a final requirement for her degree, Harris relocated to Washington, D.C., and completed an internship with Smithsonian Networks. While there, she pitched short documentaries for the website to highlight museum exhibitions. One in particular was to feature the story of Mamie “Peanut” Johnson, a woman who played in the Negro Baseball league. Upon completion of her work at Smithsonian Networks, Harris enrolled in a doctoral program in the Communication and Culture Department of Howard University.

She was awarded a teaching fellowship while studying Black women in popular culture
and alternative media. Her dissertation focused on Black rhetoric, Millennials, and social media. Specifically, she examined whether a connection existed between African-American Millennial women’s communication dynamics through blogging and previous Black rhetorical studies. Also while in the nation's capitol, Harris freelanced in the script department for an array of television shows, including the Emmy Award-winning Kennedy Center Honors on CBS, and the In Performance at the White House series on PBS.

Alexis Harris Writes Book: Black Women and Popular CultureHarris also spent one of her summers earning a certificate in “Producing for Television and Film” at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. At the age of 25, she earned her Ph.D. and was offered a senior consultant position at a management consulting firm. While there, her specialty was multicultural communications for clients in the energy, environment, transportation and health industries.

Harris now owns a boutique consulting firm that provides creative services, research, and professional development workshops for individuals and organizations. Recently, she worked as an associate producer on a documentary about education in the south with Douglas Blackmon, a Pulitzer-Prize winner. Harris also co-edited and contributed to the anthology, Black Women and Popular Culture: The Conversation Continues (Lexington Books).

She is a firm believer of the quote, “to whom much is given, much is required;” and she passionate about giving back to her respective communities. While living in Washington, D.C., she created a media literacy and production program for middle and high school students. Harris also enjoys mentoring young women and encouraging them to live their dreams. Her hobbies include creative writing, dance, sewing, and traveling. Recently, she also enjoyed taking sketch writing and improv classes at The Second City Training Center in Chicago, Illinois.

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