By Jacy Jones
December 15, 2015
WASHINGTON – As chair of the marketing department at one of the top historically Black universities in the country, Dr. Yuvay Meyers Ferguson is educating the next generation of marketing professionals at Howard University to lead a cultural shift in the advertising industry - a shift to embrace and celebrate diversity in the marketplace.
According to Ferguson, who received her Ph.D. from the Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations in 2008, the lack of diverse employees in advertising agencies is one of the most pressing issues in marketing today. She explains that the lack of diversity means that there is no one in the room to ensure that minorities are responsibly targeted and portrayed in this type of media.
“Addressing cultural sensitivity in a meaningful way means we need more minority representation in the profession and that we also need those with privilege to recognize this insensitivity and commit to combating it through diverse hiring practices,” Ferguson said. “Educating students about the idea of cultural sensitivity to target audiences is important and it starts with educators. My ultimate goal is to help prepare high quality marketers who have the added impact of awareness.”
While a professor-in-training at the University of Texas at Austin, Ferguson researched the representation of Blacks in advertising and their consumer behavior. She also had the benefit of having Jerome Williams, one of the preeminent researchers in the area of multicultural advertising, as her faculty advisor while at UT. Williams is now Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost of Rutgers University in Newark. In addition to her training within the department, she initiated connections throughout the campus to help support her research on the social and cultural impact of advertising. In doing so, Ferguson was able to forge an original path as a researcher interested in multicultural advertising.
“You don’t have to be a minority to embrace the importance of cultural diversity in our industries,” said Ferguson. “But we do need people who aren’t afraid to push boundaries and tackle difficult topics like racism and cultural differences.”
Ferguson believes that as more professors across academia get involved and discuss the need for cultural awareness and sensitivity in the classroom, more future researchers will journey down that path of investigation and hopefully consider The University of Texas at Austin for their training. Additionally, the advertising industry as a whole will benefit through messages and images that speak to audiences in a responsible way.
Reflecting on her journey as a scholar, Ferguson said, “ It’s easy to follow the well beaten path, but that’s not changing the world. You change the world when you follow what you're passionate about and dive into it. My time as a student at The University of Texas at Austin gave me the confidence and knowledge needed to take a road less travelled in order to make an impact. And that’s the power of being a Longhorn!”