Dr. Marquita Smith, associate professor and assistant dean for graduate programs in the School of Journalism and New Media at the University of Mississippi, has been named a Fellow at the Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics at the University of Mississippi, Center Chairman Charles Overby announced today.
“Marquita brings to us an impressive blend of professional experience and academic accomplishment,” Overby said. “Her work signals a broader interest in the media’s role in democracy.”
Smith’s role at the center will focus primarily on creating the Mississippi Democracy Dashboard, a collection of data designed to help users increase their political engagement.
“The Democracy Dashboard will highlight trends in governance, particularly; democratic participation and voting; institutional functioning in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches; and perhaps media capacity,” Smith said.
The dashboard is an effort to help strengthen community engagement in the political process while also serving as a resource to smaller local media outlets. It will be a non-partisan resource.
Smith joined the faculty at the University of Mississippi in 2020 from John Brown University, where she was an associate professor of journalism and the division chair for Communication and Fine Arts. While at JBU, she served as the inaugural coordinator of diversity relations and helped implement the university’s first diversity, equity and inclusion strategic plans. She was also a U.S. Fulbright Scholar at the University of Ghana, Legon.
Prior to transitioning from the newsroom to the academy, Smith worked for more than a decade as a student media advisor and was an adjunct professor at two historically Black institutions, Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Virginia, and Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia. She is a well-published, award-winning teacher, and her leadership in journalism education is well known.
In addition to her academic achievement, she has significant professional experience.
She was a bureau chief for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Virginia.; the Go editor who coordinated/edited a team of seven reporters prepared to deploy in a crisis from multiple bureaus; and the Portsmouth city editor and interim city editor for Chesapeake.
During her years with The Virginian-Pilot, she was named a Knight International Journalism Fellow to Liberia, providing hands-on training, workshops and seminars to help media play an active role in the redevelopment of the country.
She was assistant city editor at The Montgomery Advertiser in Montgomery, Alabama; an urban affairs reporter at the Lexington Herald Leader in Lexington, Kentucky; a religion and education reporter at The Sun Herald in Biloxi, Mississippi, and a general assignment reporter at the Knight-Ridder, Washington, D.C. bureau.
She is a senior consultant and owner of MQ Communications, which designs training packages for new journalists, or specialized continuing education courses for existing media operations. Primary training typically involves newsgathering, writing, assignments, shooting, editing and producing.
The firm also provides companies with diversity training and tools they need to increase their communications capacity and use high-impact strategic campaigns to achieve their goals.
Smith has a Doctorate in Higher Education from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, a Master of Arts in Journalism from the University of Maryland in College Park, and a Bachelor of Science in Communications from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. In 2021, Smith was named Alumna of the Year of UT’s School of Journalism and Electronic Media.
Most recently she was recognized as the News Leaders Association’s 2022 recipient of the Barry Bingham Sr. Fellowship, “which recognizes an educator’s outstanding efforts to encourage students of color in the field of journalism.”
The Overby Center for Southern Journalism and Politics was founded in 2007 through a grant from the Freedom Forum. The center features programs, multimedia displays and publications exploring the complex relationships between politicians and the press, with a focus on Southern perspectives.