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Professor/Director of Institute for Arts & Humanities, Ruel W. Tyson, Jr. Distinguished Professor

Parker_Pat-1 (1)

Area of Study: Organizational Communication

Office: 123 Bynum Hall
Office Hours: By appointment
Curriculum Vitae

The Ella Baker Women’s Center for Leadership and Community Activism



Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin


Dr. Patricia Parker (Ph.D. University of Texas at Austin) is Director of the Institute for the Arts and Humanities, the Ruel W. Tyson, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Humanities, and Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. From 2015-2021 she served as Chair of the Department of Communication and Director of the Graduate Certificate in Participatory Research (2017-2021).

Professor Parker’s research is community-based and focused on communication for social justice. Her work is driven by questions about discourses that influence whether and how people have the capacity to engage each other’s humanity to work toward positive social change. She is interested in understanding the communication processes that can block or fuel that capacity in a particular community or organization, especially where there is unequal power. The author of two books and dozens of articles and book chapters exploring the intersections of race, gender, leadership, and power, her most recent book is Ella Baker’s Catalytic Leadership: A Primer on Community Engagement and Communication for Social Justice, published in 2020 by the University of California Press.

A scholar activist, Dr. Parker has advanced social justice leadership in a variety of organizational contexts. As the inaugural Director of Faculty Diversity Initiatives for the College of Arts and Sciences at UNC-Chapel Hill, she developed the Diversity Liaisons program, catalyzing a network of critically engaged faculty leaders working for equity and inclusive excellence in their respective departments. She also helped to establish the Triangle Women in STEM Network, a women-led organization catalyzing diverse voices to advance women in STEM careers. In 2007, Dr. Parker founded The Ella Baker Women’s Center for Leadership and Community Activism, a community-based not-for-profit supporting girls’ and women’s leadership development. She currently serves as co-chair (with Dr. Jim Leloudis) of the University Commission on History, Race, and a Way Forward. Parker’s next projects will follow from her work as co-chair of the commission and their partnership with the Universities Studying Slavery Consortium.


Dr. Parker is the 2023 recipient of the Thomas Jefferson Award, one of the highest honors for UNC-Chapel Hill faculty in recognition of academic work that exemplifies the ideals of democracy, public service, and the pursuit of knowledge. Other awards include the IDEA Engagement Award, National Communication Association (2023); the Outstanding Communication Studies Graduate Program Alumni Award, University of Texas at Austin (2022); and the Office of the Provost Engaged Scholarship Award in recognition of outstanding engaged teaching, UNC-Chapel Hill (2013).