2016 Kemper Fellows

Image of Earnest L. Perry Jr.

Earnest L. Perry Jr.


Associate Professor of Journalism Studies
School of Journalism
MU Faculty Member since 2003

Earnest Perry’s teaching philosophy revolves around the statement “There is nothing wrong with being ignorant but a lot wrong with remaining ignorant.” Perry stands out as a national leader among those who teach and advocate for inclusion and diversity, and his goal as a journalism professor is to teach students the importance of gaining as much knowledge as possible about a variety of subjects. Perry says his passion is to challenge students, faculty members and himself every day to face the fear of ignorance and to embrace the knowledge you can obtain from others.

MU School of Journalism Dean David Kurpius says that from student instruction of undergraduates, to mentoring of doctoral and master’s students, to the application of his own scholarship in the teaching process, Perry demonstrates his dedication to the advancement of student learning. Perry recently was named as the new associate dean for graduate studies at the MU School of Journalism, effective July 1.

“He encourages discussion in classes — sometimes heated, but always respectful — and he challenges students to analyze their own assumptions about the way they think about those of different races or genders,” says Aimee Edmondson, associate professor at Ohio University E.W. Scripps School of Journalism and former MU doctoral student of Perry. “He has a booming voice and can appear gruff at first, but that is one of the things that makes him uniquely Earnest. Both undergraduate and graduate students learn, and then flock to him for classes and advising.”

In his years of teaching at MU, Perry has been instrumental in the renewal and transformation of two cornerstone large lecture courses in the School of Journalism. The courses raise issues of race, gender and other differences.   

“Over the course of a decade, Perry led faculty efforts as chair of the Journalism Studies faculty, as chair of ad hoc groups charged with revision, and as a faculty member deeply dedicated to the importance of these courses,” said Dean Mills, MU School of Journalism Dean Emeritus. “When he began his efforts, both courses were deeply unpopular with the undergraduates at which they were aimed — young people whom, journalism faculty thought — needed the content of the courses to prepare adequately for careers in journalism. Those courses now are quite popular.”

Mills says the courses were transformed, largely by Perry, through innovative methods of delivering courses through combinations of new lecture styles, small discussion groups, online interactivity and others.

“Earnest built a strong program, and it made a difference to the hundreds, and now thousands, of students who have gone through the curriculum,” says Maria E. Len-Rios, former faculty member at MU School of Journalism. “More students were realizing that they were part of a diverse America and that they had a responsibility to tell wider, multidimensional stories and to market to a more diverse audience. This realization would not have happened without Earnest.”

Perry has been at the center of efforts to improve the quality and rigor of journalism education. As a faculty chair, he implemented procedures to support classroom management, requiring a rotation of senior faculty in the core curriculum. He was instrumental in developing the Doctoral Teaching Program for journalism Ph.D. students, which began in 2006 and has sent dozens of skilled faculty to journalism schools around the world.

In addition, Perry advises the school’s student chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists, a group that won the nation’s top award for student groups in 2014. Perry also is a former member of the university’s Intercollegiate Athletics Committee and advised campus leadership on all matters related to MU’s student-athletes.

Most recently, Perry served as co-editor of the textbook Cross-Cultural Journalism: Communicating Strategically About Diversity. The book, designed to teach college students how to write about and communicate with people of backgrounds different from their own, puts the MU School of Journalism at the forefront of schools that are leading the way in an era when our society is challenged by issues of inclusion.

Perry earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Texas Christian University and earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in journalism from the University of Missouri.