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Giving Voice to the Lived Experiences of Black Women

For Karla Scott, Ph.D., the director of the African-American studies program at Saint Louis University, teaching is more than a vocation; it’s a calling. And teaching at a university — where she can play a role in shaping young minds — is a special call.


A SLU alumna, Scott has taught at the University for 22 years, earning numerous awards for excellence in teaching and advising. Outside of her classroom, the communication professor helped create a new intergroup dialogue course that gives students a safe place to discuss race, gender and other social identities.

Scott said SLU’s commitment to social justice and the Jesuit tradition of education have empowered her to challenge various ‘isms’ and to offer her students new ways of interacting across them.

“My former students often contact me years after graduation to share how classes they took with me changed their understanding of self and others and how grateful they are now to find themselves in positions and professions where their knowledge and skills can be used to transform society,” Scott said.

As a Billiken myself, I understand how the SLU experience makes it possible to do important work that is meaningful, that matters and can help make the world a better place."

Karla Scott, Ph.D.

Scott has focused her scholarship on giving voice to the lived experiences of black women. She has studied the communications strategies young black women use to navigate predominately white environments, and more recently, she has turned her attention to exploring the myth of “strong black womanhood.”

“As a Billiken myself, I understand how the SLU experience makes it possible to do important work that is meaningful, that matters and can help make the world a better place,” Scott said. “It certainly helped me to recognize my calling.”

A native of East St. Louis, Illinois, Scott earned her undergraduate degree in communication at SLU in 1981. After working as a professional journalist, she decided to go back to school to get an advanced degree, earning a Ph.D. in intercultural communication from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. She returned to SLU as a member of the faculty in 1994.

Karla Scott and Fred Pestello

Scott speaks with University President Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D., following a prayer vigil in August 2014. File photo

The assistant  dean  for  diversity  and  inclusion  in  the  College  of  Arts  and Sciences and the co-chair of SLU’s Diversity Council, Scott likes to share her expertise with the St. Louis community. In 2014, she participated in “Teaching Ferguson,” an open forum designed to help area teachers address questions and concerns from their students.

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