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Diversity within COM

by Namu Sampath

Photo courtesy of Tina Martin

Cambridge-native Tina Martin, a well-known journalist who works for WGBH in Boston, is new to the College of Communication, teaching beat reporting. She is the third black professor in COM, and is an important addition to students’ experience, academically and professionally.

Martin grew up in a diverse neighborhood in Cambridge and was exposed to a variety of cultures and people, which made her intrigued by the people around her. Every evening at 6 p.m., Martin would sit down with a bowl of cereal and watch Liz Walker on Channel 4, CBS News.

“I loved seeing a black woman on TV,” said Martin. “She looked like me and it made me feel like I could do what she was doing.”

According to a recent study on diversifying the classroom, having more teachers of color allows minority students to perform better in their classes and to have more positive attitudes about learning and pursuing their careers.

Professor Michael Holley, sports journalist for NBC and the only black male professor in COM, said, “I never had a black professor in college.”

Both professors spoke about how heartwarming it is when students come in to their office hours to spend time with them, having never had those same opportunities before with professors they identified with.

“It is so powerful when you have mentors who encourage you,” Holley said, “Because it is not a temporary thing: It’s lifelong.”

In the city of Boston, there are 30 percent more students of color than the average percentage of teachers of color. These numbers are almost exactly flipped when talking about the average percentage of white teachers to white students in the classroom.

“So many people feel discouraged because they don’t see anyone in the higher levels of their education or career who look like them, and they wonder if they can even do it,” Martin said.

Representation matters because it influences and increases the number of students of color who will go out into their fields and feel confident to do their jobs.

Having just joined COM this semester as a professor, Martin said, “It is only fair that if you students, especially students of color are here, trying to learn, there should be professors who look like you, teaching.”

Telling untold stories, connecting with communities, and motivating and encouraging young people is what has been a driving factor Martin’s love for her career.

Being here, Martin hopes that she can impact her students’ lives, and inspire them to be true to themselves in their fields.

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