#MasonCOMM Faculty, Richard Craig, Seeks to Empower Marginalized Groups

by Catherine Wright

#MasonCOMM Faculty, Richard Craig, Seeks to Empower Marginalized Groups

Over the last twelve years Richard Craig has seen many changes on campus and taken on increasingly important roles within the department and university.  Currently, he is the Masters in Communication advisor, an active researcher in media representation and diversity, and a popular teacher.  Today, #MasonCOMM takes a look at this much-loved faculty member.

Growing up in Michigan, Craig earned his BA in Journalism from a small liberal arts college in mid-Michigan called Olivet College.  He moved to Lansing to attend Michigan State University and earned his MA in Telecommunications Management.  Upon graduation, he moved to the DC area to earn his PhD in Mass Communication/Media Studies from Howard University. 

When asked why he chose these schools, Craig replied he chose Olivet because “I knew I wanted to go into journalism.  I initially thought about pursuing print journalism because of encouragement I received in high school, suggesting I was a good writer.”  When he started at Olivet, someone encouraged him to “think about radio.”  Craig said he was “able to translate [that advice] into a multiyear experience in our student-run college radio station.”  What made this experience both exciting and rewarding, Craig said, was that it “led me to be interested in programming and owning my on broadcast and cable outlets.”

During his MA studies, his foci developed and he “increasingly understood the history and legacy of barriers preventing people of color and women from owning media outlets.”  This, in turn, spawned “my increased interest to study the matter and hopefully education and influence policy to improved ownership for marginalized groups.”

As Craig continued with his studies at Howard, he took his experience and interests and further refined them, writing a dissertation on the influence of ownership’s race/ethnicity on programming through observing Black Entertainment Television’s news programming.  It was during his time at Howard that Craig recognized the need for more diversity in research addressing the political economy of media ownership, and began to develop greater interest in understanding the influence of policy on media ownership and content.

Upon coming to Mason as a Preparing Future Faculty Fellow, Craig continued his research.  His research looks at “the idea of increasing the opportunities for those who are often put in the margins of society.  Helping to increase engagement for and with these groups.”  He believes his research can contribute “to conversations appreciating our diversity and our similarities, i.e. bridging gaps.”  Overall, his work “tends to focus on media representations, especially in the sense of empowering or negating traditionally marginalized groups.”  Craig has written 1 book, published five journal articles, and written ten reports/reviews.  Of these, he highlighted his book, titled African Americans and Mass Media: A Case for Diversity in Media Ownership and two of his articles.  The first is “I know what them girls want” which focused on the portrayal of the “thug” in hip-hop content as a potential romantic partner, and the other titled “Malice at the Palace” which discussed the reporting on the incident in a manner that criminalizes the Black male body.  Both of these articles, in particular, are “deeply rooted in [his] experiences as a Black man and observing phenomenon based upon ethnic/racial stereotypes and expectations of Black men.”  In addition to writing about marginalized groups, he has “recently been doing more work with 4C (Center for Climate Change Communication) and researching/publishing on news gathering/reporting on climate change.”

When asked to choose a favorite class he has taught, Craig could not do it, saying “that’s like asking me to pick my favorite child….just can’t do it.”  He has taught a variety of classes at both the graduate and undergraduate level, building a strong cult following among students, who clamor to take his classes. Craig said “each course has its own reward and I really enjoy engaging the students.”   At the undergraduate level, he says if he “were forced to pick, I would say I enjoy the opportunity to teach Gender, Race, and Class in Media because it is probably the course most directly related to my research.”  He continued, saying, “the overlap in teaching and research in that course creates a certain synergy when engaging students about the content.” 

At the graduate level, he believes teaching “Pop Culture and Health…continues to be a joy.  I created that course from my own research and teaching interests and the areas of specialization in our graduate program (Strategic Communication and Health Communication).”  Craig approaches that course by examining how society treats “a variety of health concerns in media and the potential influences the media representations has on our behaviors.”   Students love this class because it gives them the opportunity to apply what they’re experiencing in real life to subject matter taught in the classroom.

As a faculty mentor and teacher, his favorite thing about teaching is the students.  Craig glowed when talking about this aspect of his job.  “I always enjoy observing students’ growth over a semester, or multiple semesters if I have the opportunity to instruct them in more than one course.”  He continued by saying, “Students come into a course at different levels of understanding of the content, but to observe and engage students as they make sense of the information for themselves is always fun.”

One of the biggest challenges he’s faced teaching is “keeping courses fresh and current for students.”  He finds “unique challenges in any given semester” and enjoys “creating new activities to engage students.”  They generally include “new writing assignments [and] research projects” which he said, “all take mental energy to meet students where they are.”  He walks the balance, as do all faculty, by making sure he doesn’t “overdo it and wear students down; that then defeats the effort to engage.”

When not researching or teaching, he relishes his role as the MA/Graduate Coordinator.  Craig said, “I have really come to enjoy getting to know the graduate students from the time of admission to completion and obtaining their degree.”  One of the things he loves most about this position is that “as their time in the program progresses, I get the opportunity to learn more about them as individuals.”  Outside of the department, Craig is also involved in the University’s Faculty Senate as a senator, where he “[attempts] to represent the interests of my colleagues and give voice to important matters.”

When asked what he does in his free time, Craig laughed and replied, “Did you say ‘free time’?”  He is happily married with three children ages 15, 6, and 2.  He said in this much-loved role “each day seems new and experiencing life through their development is always interesting and dare I say, fun.”

Craig is a very talented professor and researcher, who gives 110% to everything he does.  His students rave about him and those whom he’s guided through graduate school have nothing but continued praise.  His parting words for students is to “really take an advantage of the relationship you have developed during your time here at Mason.”  Keep in touch with your professors after graduation, as they love to hear what you’re doing!  When Craig first arrived at Mason, he “was impressed by the overall campus….and my interactions with the faculty in the Department of Communication.”  Over his twelve years, he has found Mason to be a very “welcoming environment” and one he now calls home.