Professor Gary Hicks was as surprised as the rest of the staff to find that he had been awarded the Margaret Going endowed scholarship. 

The prestigious award was announced during a regular fall meeting of the SIUE Mass Communications Department.

“Typically, what they do is send you a letter that says you’ve been given this, but this year I was completely surprised,” Hicks said. “At the end of it [the meeting], the dean just announced that I was the recipient. I was just as surprised as anyone else.” 

Hicks is a professor in the Mass Communications Department at SIUE. In the past, Hicks has served as department chair, as well as worked as a reporter and associate producer for the southwestern bureau of The MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour. Hicks received his Bachelor of Science at Texas Christian University, his Master of Arts at the University of Missouri-Columbia, and his doctorate at the University of Texas at Austin.

The surprise of the award was intentionally brought up by by Dean Kevin Leonard.

“Because of the strange nature of this academic year in particular, I didn’t want to inform somebody and expect them to be there if they didn’t want to be in person in a room where someone might have felt it was taking too much risk considering where we are in the pandemic,” Leonard said.

The Margaret Going Award is an endowed scholarship. The primary criteria for receiving the award is for the applicant’s scholarship and is given out to staff who have applied their longstanding research into their classrooms. The recipient of the Margaret Going award is chosen by a committee of former winners who determine that the person they’re choosing meets all the criteria.

 Hick’s body of research focuses on the effect media has had on marginalized communities.

“I’ve been working on my research agenda, which is about mass media and how mass media can marginalize and stigmatize certain communities,” Hicks said. “The vast amount of my work has been on the LGBTQ+ community, so I’ve done significant work on both looking at the coverage itself through news, television, film, social media, but also done the type of work where I’ve asked members of the community, ‘What kind of impact has this had on your life?’”

The recipient of the Margaret Going award is chosen by a committee of former winners who determine that the person they’re choosing meets all the criteria.

One facet of Hicks’ research involved the practice of “outing,” which involved news publications stating certain well-known figures are members of the LGBTQ+ community without their consent.

“It was primarily for means of being hypocritical. There’d be members of Congress who’d vote against everything that involved gay rights, or at the time AIDS legislation, then you’d see them at night in the night clubs.” Hicks said. “Or celebrities. Jodie Foster was one of the first big targets of this. In the late ‘80s to early ‘90s, there was a magazine that was named Outweek, and all they did was find people they said were ‘definitely queer.’”

Hicks said, as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, that the media’s coverage of the HIV epidemic greatly influenced his research.

“I don’t believe that, in the 20th or 21st century, there is any institution more powerful in letting us know who we are and who other people are, telling us about the world, than the mass media,” Hicks said.

Musonda Kapatamoyo, chair of the Mass Communications department, said that everyone was happy in the staff meeting when Hicks was announced as the winner.

“The dean [Leonard] was talking about all these positive things that are happening within the college, and he had Dr. Hicks’ name on a big slide about winning this award.” Kapatamoyo said. “It’s like the Oscars. You’re right there in the audience and they tell you that you’ve won this big thing, so all of us were very happy and high fiving.”

Kapatamoyo said Hicks winning the award is prestigious for the department. “It highlights the work of the faculty and shows that we’re doing serious research in the department,” he said. “We’re very proud of his achievement, and we support him 100 percent.”

There will be a formal ceremony to present Hicks with the award, and his acceptance speech will be open to all students and faculty who wish to attend. The date has not yet been set.

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