November 25, 2014  

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Southern Miss Mass Communication Doctoral Student Honored

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Robert Byrd, right, a doctoral student in mass communication at Southern Miss, is congratulated by University of Southern Alabama Graduate School Dean Keith Harrison for earning the Outstanding Master’s Thesis Award for Social Sciences, Business and Education.

Robert Byrd, a first-year doctoral student in The University of Southern Mississippi’s School of Mass Communication and Journalism, recently received the Outstanding Master’s Thesis Award for Social Sciences, Business and Education at the University of South Alabama, the highest honor a thesis can receive from the university.

Byrd also won the Top Student Paper in the Cultural and Critical Studies Division at the Midwinter Conference of the Association for Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication in Norman, Okla.  That paper examined representations of athletes in a special edition of Out magazine.

“Robby is a talented scholar with a promising future,” said Fei Xue, associate professor and coordinator of the graduate program in the School of Mass Communication and Journalism.

Byrd’s thesis, "Southern Homophobia and the 'Gay Plague': AIDS coverage in New Orleans' Mainstream, Gay, and Alternative Presses from 1981 - 1991," focused on media coverage of the AIDS epidemic, exploring how the media narrative created stereotypical images and behaviors during the early years of the epidemic.

His thesis advisor, associate professor Vanessa Murphree, said this timely topic explores an important era that “helps us better understand diversity and misinformation about a historic and continuing public health epidemic.”

Murphree, who will join the Southern Miss faculty in August, described Byrd as an “exceptional student” who is a “talented researcher and writer” who also brings “a great deal of creativity and critical analysis” to his work. 

“Working with Robby was a great learning experience for me,” Murphree said. “I know that his work will inspire and influence others, just as it has inspired and influenced me.”

For information about the Southern Miss School of Mass Communication and Journalism and its programs, online visit www.usm.edu/mcj