Jessica Harris Honored With ACPA’s Emerging Scholar Award

The UCLA assistant professor of education will further her research on campus sexual violence and women of color.

Jessica Harris, an assistant professor in the division of Higher Education & Organizational Change, has been selected as one of five recipients of the 2017 – 19 Emerging Scholar Award from the American College Personnel Association- College Educators International (ACPA). The two-year award will support Harris’ research on campus sexual violence from the perspective of women of color.

Harris recently published “Intersections of Identity and Sexual Violence on Campus: Centering Minoritized Students’ Experiences” (With Linder, C., co-ed. Sterling: Stylus Publishing, 2017). In the book, she and her contributors explore how the violent history of U.S. colonization continues to influence the campus lives of women of color.

“Sexual violence impacts women of color at disproportionate rates, qualitatively and quantitatively,” says Harris. “I found it intriguing that the only people we see in the narrative of sexual violence on campus is white women.

“There’s this rape myth of women of color [who are stereotyped as] hypersexualized already and that they are ‘asking for it.’ The systems of patriarchy and white supremacy are influencing why women of color may not come forward, or aren’t seen.”

This summer, Harris will begin her qualitative study on women of color who are victims/survivors of campus sexual violence. She plans for some of the research to also focus on multiraciality.

“We don’t talk about sexual violence for people of color in general and we don’t talk about mixed race identity,” she notes. “Mixed race women and mixed race men are [often] sexually assaulted at rates higher then any other racial group. These educational environments don’t understand race, let alone the complexity of being multiracial.”

Harris, whose experiences as a multiracial woman have helped to shape her research interests, delineates the misconceptions of multiraciality.

“Multiraciality isn’t new although we’re packaging it as such,” she says. “It’s seen as sexy, cool, and new at this point. That wasn’t the case in 2000, or in 1800. There are also these myths about multiracial people: that their numbers are growing at alarming rates or that they’re ushering in a post-racial society.

“There’s this [notion] that because people are mixing so much whether through marriage or this biracial baby boom that race will cease to exist. People often say that multiracial people are the antidote to racism. But that’s not true. I experience racism and this concept of monoracism, which is, me not fitting into the idea of race. I continually have people asking me, ‘What are you?’”

At UCLA, Harris has taught courses on research in higher education and student development theory. She looks forward to teaching a new course on race and racism on the college campus this spring.

“I try to infuse equity and thinking about the [students] and the structures we don’t usually think about in these courses,” she says. “I teach student development theory which is the foundation of the student affairs field. That helps someone be a better professional because they understand how students develop. But I challenge students to critique the theories that we’re using – how might this help you understand how students develop but how might it also marginalize the same students? I hope it helps people think about some of the things we don’t think through.”


Courtesy of the University of Kansas