Jessica Harris Honored with AERA Scholars of Color Early Career Contribution Award

UCLA education professor hailed for contributions to understanding issues affecting minority populations in education; Harris will be honored during the virtual 2020 AERA Awards Celebration, Oct. 3.

Updated 09/25/20 UCLA Assistant Professor of Education Jessica Harris has been honored with the 2020 Scholars of Color Early Career Contribution Award by the American Educational Research Association (AERA) for her body of research that makes a significant contribution to better understanding issues that disproportionately affect minority populations in education. Professor Harris will be recognized at a virtual awards celebration on Saturday, Oct. 3, 3-4:30 p.m., EDT.

Harris says that receiving the Early Career Contribution Award, “feels good.”

“The state of higher education is in flux, so while it’s amazing to receive this honor, it also is a little bittersweet because I think research and higher education will look different in the future,” she says. “It’s a good time to reflect. It’s a really good way to be reminded that you’ve done good work and that you need to continue to do good work.”

The award recognizes Professor Harris for her overall body of work on racism in higher education, but also recognizes her as a scholar of color who studies race and racism. She says that in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, one of the main challenges to her research is that she is not able to interview participants in person about their experiences. Currently, Harris is focusing on women of color students who are survivors of campus sexual assault. However, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, she has begun to think through how to do this research in a manner that continues to protect the survivors who participate in her ongoing study. 

“A lot of the women I talk to are in a place where they want to talk about their assault and about their healing process,” she says. “But the other thing to think about is you have a lot of women who might be in an abusive relationship or living with their parents, to whom they don’t want to tell their experiences with sexual violence, [they may not] want to participate in [this] study if they have to call in from their parents’ home or a partner’s home.”

Dovetailing with her work on women of color and sexual violence, is Harris’ perspectives on racism. In a recent blog post for “Knowledge That Matters,” she shares a list of resources for exploring race, racism, and anti-racism, to be used by everyone.

In responding to questions about Black Lives Matter and current protesting around the murders of Black bodies, Harris says, “If anything, I feel more empowered to call people out in their racism, to name white supremacy in my research, to use more critical frameworks, and be unapologetic about it.”

Professor Harris is the co-author of  “Intersections of Identity and Sexual Violence on Campus: Centering Minoritized Students’ Experiences” (With Chris Linder. Stylus Publishing, 2017). The book is an exploration of how the violent history of U.S. colonization continues to influence the campus lives of women of color.

Photo by Idriss Njike, UCLA Housing