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Award for Excellence: Michele Norris

HSJMC Alumni Board honors Norris with its annual award.
February 12, 2018

The University of Minnesota Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication Alumni Society Board has selected Michele Norris (BA ’05) as the recipient of the 2018 Award for Excellence. The award will be presented on Wednesday, April 25, 2018, as part of the School’s annual Spring Showcase event. The award is given to an HSJMC alum who exemplifies excellence, leadership, and creativity in his or her chosen field. The award, first given in 1980, has been awarded to graduates of the School representing many different facets of the communications industry, including advertising, public relations, print journalism, broadcast journalism, photography and academia. Past recipients include: David Carr, Chuck Porter and Gail Marks Jarvis. 

Michele Norris is a Peabody Award-winning journalist, founder of The Race Card Project and Executive Director of The Bridge, The Aspen Institute’s new program on race, identity, connectivity and inclusion. Norris is recognized for her work as a host of NPR’s “All Things Considered,” where she interviewed world leaders, American presidents, Nobel laureates, leading thinkers and groundbreaking artists. She was also the recipient of the International Women’s Media Foundation inaugural Gwen Ifill Award in 2017, which recognizes outstanding female journalists of color.  

“Michele is one of the shining stars in our alumni network, whose career embodies everything our journalism school is fighting for,” said Tim Nelson, president of the HSJMC Alumni Society Board. “From being a trailblazer on NPR, to starting a critical dialog about race in the United States, she is an incredible journalist, storyteller and University alumna. We're proud to count Michele as part of our HSJMC family and are honored to give her this award.”

Before joining NPR in 2002, Norris spent almost 10 years as a reporter for ABC News in the Washington Bureau. She has also worked as a staff writer for The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times

In 2009, she was named “Journalist of the Year” by the National Association of Black Journalists. The NABJ recognized Norris for her coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign—when she co-hosted NPR's Democratic presidential candidates’ debate, covered both conventions, anchored multi-hour election and inauguration live broadcasts and moderated a series of candid conversations with voters on the intersection of race and politics.

In 2010, Norris' book, The Grace of Silence: A Memoir was published. In the book she turns her formidable interviewing and investigative skills on her own background to unearth long hidden family secrets that raise questions about her racial legacy and shed new light on America's complicated racial history.

Norris is also a former Shorenstein Fellow at The Harvard Kennedy School. She serves as a judge for the John Chancellor Awards at Columbia University and she was on the 2015 judging panel for the U.S. Documentary Competition at the Sundance Film Festival. Norris, who created and hosted NPR's Backseat Book Club, also received a Children's Choice Book Award for being an “outspoken and enthusiastic advocate for reading.” She and her husband, Broderick Johnson, have three children and live in Washington D.C.

“On behalf of the faculty, staff and students of the HSJMC, I’m delighted that we are honoring Michele Norris with the alumni Award for Excellence,” said Elisia Cohen, HSJMC director. “As one of the School’s most recognizable alumni, Michele has been an outstanding leader in the broadcast industry who used her investigative reporting and interviewing skills to examine her family’s complicated racial legacy. In turn, her discoveries and willingness to render them public in her book have enlivened public discourse about America’s racial history and make a significant contribution to the stories we tell about gender, race and class in the United States. We are proud to recognize her extraordinary achievements.”

Would you like to come celebrate Norris, scholarship recipients and HSJMC graduates? Buy tickets and attend the 2018 Spring Showcase.