Professor Mohan Dutta receives award for applied communication scholarship

Professor Dutta has been announced as the 2023 recipient of the National Communication Association’s Gerald M Phillips Award.

Professor Mohan Dutta.

Professor Mohan Dutta, Dean’s Chair Professor of Communication and Director of the Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE) at Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa Massey University, has been announced as the 2023 recipient of the National Communication Association’s (NCA) Gerald M Phillips Award for Distinguished Applied Communication Scholarship.

Professor Dutta will be formally recognised during an award ceremony at the NCA’s 109th Annual Convention on 18 November in National Harbor, Maryland.   

Bestowed annually, the Gerald M Phillips Award is presented to scholars responsible for authoring bodies of published research and creative scholarship in applied communication.

On being this year’s recipient, Professor Dutta says, “Community leadership, voice and participation are the key drivers in addressing the significant global challenges of health and wellbeing, poverty, inequality, climate change, food security, access to clean drinking water, racism, and peace and social cohesion outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals. This recognition of my work with the culture-centered approach in driving transformative social change speaks to the positive roles that communities play as drivers of meaningful solutions.”

Professor Dutta’s ethnographically-based, community-led experiments with a culture-centered approach developed over a span of two decades, in solidarity with communities at the “margins of the margins” across the globe.

Spanning 17 countries across four continents, the impact of his applied communication scholarship is felt in communities experiencing structural deprivation, through the creation of infrastructures for voice, participation and community democracy.

“To me, applied communication scholarship is inherently public, having a great deal to contribute to public conversations in democracies. Our roles as public scholars are particularly important amidst global crises in challenging the propaganda perpetuated by powerful political and economic actors seeking to silence voices from the margins,” Professor Dutta says.

“Amidst the increasing and targeted threats to academic freedom from the far-right through organised disinformation campaigns, it is significant that the spaces for carrying out public scholarship be nurtured, secured and sustained. A great deal of my scholarly energies therefore are currently focused on offering leadership both here in Aotearoa and globally to movements for safeguarding academic freedom. I see my public writings as central to advocacy for applied communication scholarship.”

The impact of Professor Dutta’s scholarship is evident in the various local, regional and national policies that have been shaped by grassroots community-led participatory solutions. These include community development projects, material infrastructures such as community-owned food systems, hospitals, educational infrastructures, systems for clean drinking water and community-owned advocacy and activist campaigns.

Housed under the umbrella of CARE, over 50 community-led social change projects led by Professor Dutta have demonstrated social impact. The activist-in-residence programme at the Center, white papers and community dialogues offer templates for community-engaged applied communication scholarship. A documentary featuring the work of CARE is available here.

Professor Dutta recently completed his tenure as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Applied Communication Research and is currently the chair of the Ethnicity and Race in Communication division of the International Communication Association (ICA).

For his mentorship of practitioners and scholars of applied communication, he has been recognised with the ICA’s Aubrey Fisher Mentorship Award and the NCA Health Communication Division’s award for outstanding contributions to promoting equity and inclusion. He is the host of the podcast Interventions from the Global South, housed under the umbrella of the ICA.

Professor Dutta’s scholarship has also been recognised with the prestigious Charles H. Woolbert Research Award, the NCA’s Golden Anniversary Monograph Award, the Bridge Award for Excellence in Connecting Crisis and Risk Communication Research and the ICA Applied Public Policy Communication Researcher Award.

Professor Dutta is a Distinguished Scholar of the NCA and Fellow of the ICA.

About the National Communication Association (NCA)

The NCA advances communication as the discipline that studies all forms, modes, media and consequences of communication through humanistic, social scientific and aesthetic inquiry. The NCA serves the scholars, teachers, and practitioners who are its members by enabling and supporting their professional interests in research and teaching.

Dedicated to fostering and promoting free and ethical communication, the NCA promotes the widespread appreciation of the importance of communication in public and private life, the application of competent communication to improve the quality of human life and relationships and the use of knowledge about communication to solve human problems. The NCA supports inclusiveness and diversity among their faculties, within their membership, in the workplace, and in the classroom, and supports and promotes policies that fairly encourage this diversity and inclusion.