Mia Moody-Ramirez

By Caitlin Giddens

Associate Professor | Mother | Lifelong Learner

After her children go to bed, Dr. Mia Moody-Ramirez gets to work. She regularly researches and writes until 3 a.m., but it’s paid off. Moody-Ramirez has been widely published in academic journals and is the co-author of the book “The Obamas and Mass Media: Race, Gender, Religion, and Politics.” She is also an associate professor at Baylor University and the director of two graduate programs in the journalism department: the American Studies program and the journalism graduate program. But Moody-Ramirez’s impressive resume doesn’t list her most important position — mother of three.

WACOAN: What led you to this position at Baylor?

Moody-Ramirez: I was a graduate student in the journalism program at Baylor, and then I was asked to teach a class. At the time, I wasn’t thinking about teaching. I thought I would get my master’s degree and go on to work for a fashion magazine or something glamorous.

Both of my parents are former teachers. My mom taught third grade, and my dad taught at my high school. Teaching is in my blood. I used to tell my mother I wanted to be an author, but she told me I may not be able to make a career writing books. That’s why I went into journalism.

I enjoyed teaching my first class, and then I was asked to teach as an adjunct professor at Baylor. After earning my master’s degree, I got my Ph.D. [in journalism] from the University of Texas in Austin. I stayed on staff at Baylor — I didn’t interview anywhere else. Then I started the tenure program. I was tenured a few years ago, and that was a high point in my career.

WACOAN: Did you have to commute to Austin to earn your doctorate?

Moody-Ramirez: Yes, I was teaching at Baylor as an adjunct. I commuted to Austin four days a week. It was a tough period because I also had children. But I knew it was God working in my life. I didn’t really think about doing — I just focused on earning my Ph.D.

And I had help. We had a student come and help us. I never want to discount the help I’ve had because a support system is so important to balance.

WACOAN: Other than your love for reading, what sparked your interest in journalism?

Moody-Ramirez: As a young child, my dad always emphasized the importance of watching the nightly news. We were a close-knit family. We ate dinner together and watched the 5 p.m. news. He always stressed the importance of keeping up with current events. As a teenager, I was always reading books and magazines. I would read two to three books a week. From watching the news, I understood the power of a reporter. You’re the one person who goes to an event and informs what thousands of people think. I’ve always been an activist and wanted to make a difference. I thought journalism was a way to make a difference.

WACOAN: What is the most important aspect of working in the education field?

Moody-Ramirez: I think it’s very important for everyone to help other people. I do that broadly by teaching. I do that on a smaller scale by mentoring my students. This week I went to lunch with two of my mentees. I talk to them about the classes they need to take and the internships they could have. Not every student needs that, but it’s important for teachers to serve in that capacity.

WACOAN: What do you enjoy about working at Baylor?

Moody-Ramirez: The students are dynamic and diverse. They come from different backgrounds. The students are passionate about what they’re pursuing. And I like that Baylor is Christian-based. I can talk about my faith, and I wouldn’t be able to do that at a public university.

WACOAN: How have you seen Baylor change?

Moody-Ramirez: I have been teaching here for 14 years, and I’ve seen Baylor change dramatically in that time. I’ve seen more women in leadership roles at Baylor. The chair of the journalism department, Dr. Sara Stone, is a woman. This is the first time we’ve had a woman serve as the chair of our department.

I’ve learned that Baylor changes, but at its own pace. I think the faculty in administration is careful about the changes we make at Baylor. What we’re doing here is already great — we just have to build on that.

WACOAN: How is this position different than you expected?

Moody-Ramirez: Going into this, I didn’t have any expectations because I wasn’t planning on being a professor.

I get to mentor more than I thought I would. That’s something I take on personally — I don’t have to do it.

Also, journalism is changing. When I started teaching, I could keep my syllabus the same for two or three years. Now it’s always changing, and you have to keep up with the trends. That makes me a lifelong learner. I can never become complacent. In order to be a lifelong learner, I attend conferences in the summer. I love going to those conferences and talking to other professors. I’ve also met people I’ve collaborated with on articles.

You can’t be Blockbuster in this industry. You can’t be obsolete. In order to like Redbox or Netflix, you have to keep up. And I’m not afraid to learn from my students. If I’m lecturing about social media apps, I’ll ask my students what they’re using.

WACOAN: To keep up with the changing field, Baylor’s journalism department adopted a new major: new media. Tell me about this degree.

Moody-Ramirez: The new media program is a combination of advertising, public relations and marketing. We’re still trying to tweak that track.

WACOAN: You’re also involved in the journalism graduate program. What’s your role?

Moody-Ramirez: Yes, I’m the director of the journalism graduate program as well as the American Studies graduate program. That program is housed in the journalism department. It’s a multidisciplinary degree. We have students from backgrounds in English, history, political science. The students have a lot of flexibility in the classes they take.

WACOAN: In addition to your teaching, you’re highly published in academic journals. How much of your time do you spend researching?

Moody-Ramirez: While I’m in the office, I’ll spend 20 to 30 percent of my time doing research. I just submitted an article to a journal this week, and I’m working on another one. When I go home, I’ll stay up until 2 or 3 a.m. working on articles. I have to do that when my family goes to bed so I can spend time with them. It’s hard to find the time to work on my research projects — I have so many ideas of papers to write.

WACOAN: Now that you’re tenured, are you required to do research and publish?

Moody-Ramirez: I don’t have to, but I enjoy it.

WACOAN: In your published work, you’ve focused on marginalized people in media. Tell me more about that.

Moody-Ramirez: That focus was born when I was a child. I was the teenager who read magazines and saw images of women. I saw the invisibility of African-American women and Hispanic women.

At first, I was a part of the media as a reporter. Now as a professor, I hope to make a difference by publishing articles in journals. Studies have shown that the media will make changes based on scholarship and journal articles. Rather than making a difference through newspaper articles, I’m making a difference through journal articles. Journals reach professors and students. I hope professors read these articles and share them with their students, and then they’re more aware of how they frame an article and what they bring to the table.

WACOAN: Tell me about your book, ‘The Obamas and Mass Media: Race, Gender, Religion, and Politics.’

Moody-Ramirez: Using the cultural prism of race, ‘The Obamas and Mass Media’ critically examines the images of African-Americans that exist in media of the 21st century. I co-authored the book with Dr. Jannette Dates, dean emerita of the School of Communications and professor in the department of radio, television & film at Howard University. In the book, we assess the ways in which media focused on gender, religion and politics in framing perceptions of the president and first lady.

WACOAN: And you’ve focused on the media’s portrayal of African-Americans in many of your journal articles.

Moody-Ramirez: My studies on women and minorities in the mass media focus on the stereotyping of African-Americans and marginalized groups. There are two types of representations of women and persons of color in media: invisible or stereotyped.

The invisibleness comes into play with missing women. There’s the Missing White Woman Syndrome. That’s the idea that when a white woman goes missing, you hear about it in the news, but you don’t hear as much about a black woman going missing.

Then when African-Americans are portrayed in media, they’re often stereotyped. There’s the ‘Jezebel’ and the independent black woman. On the surface, being independent sounds like a good thing. In black literature, the independent woman is seen as someone who is masculine and emasculates males.

I had to remove myself from the image of the independent black woman. At one time, I was single and raising three children. I felt like I was supposed to do it all. I was supposed to be the perfect woman. I was supposed to do everything without help. Then I saw it didn’t have to be that way.

It’s OK to reach out and get help. It’s OK to be independent and have a support system. It’s so important to have a support system, whether it’s your mate or a family member.

My parents have always been supportive. They live in College Station, so they’re close. That’s one of the tenets of ‘Lean In’ [by Sheryl Sandberg]. It’s good to create a support system and to have someone to lean on. For me, that’s my husband.

WACOAN: How did you meet your husband?

Moody-Ramirez: We went to junior high together and reconnected on Facebook. Augustine has been so helpful. I’ve been able to do more because of him. He is my support system.

WACOAN: What does Augustine do?

Moody-Ramirez: He works at Packless Industries, a manufacturing company located in Hewitt. He is an electrician by trade. He’s also a DJ. He is a jack of all trades.

WACOAN: How do you two work together as parents?

Moody-Ramirez: We look at our schedules and figure it out. I take the boys to school in the morning because he goes to work early. One of our sons rides the bus, so Augustine will pick up our other son [after school].

We take turns cooking. He gets off work earlier, so he’ll go to the grocery store. He is coaching my son’s football team. We just try to communicate with one another. You have to figure out what works for your family. That’s what we’ve done.

WACOAN: How do you and your husband make time for each other?

Moody-Ramirez: It’s hard to find a way to make time for each other. It’s so easy just to think about the kids and forget to make time as a couple. We try to go on date nights. If he gets off work early, we’ll try to go to an early dinner. We like to go to the movies.

WACOAN: Tell me about your children.

Moody-Ramirez: I have three children. My oldest is my daughter, Heidi, who is 23 years old and a student at McLennan Community College. My next child is Timothy, who is 12 years old. He’s in Future Farmers of America and in basketball. My youngest, William, is 10 years old. William plays football, so that keeps us busy. He is known as the scholar of the family. He loves to read like I used to when I was young. All of my children are smart.

WACOAN: Where do your younger kids go to school?

Moody-Ramirez: Timothy goes to Midway Middle School. William goes to Woodgate Intermediate School.

WACOAN: As a professor, you make a point to mentor students. How do you mentor your children?

Moody-Ramirez: The same way. When we’re riding to school in the morning, we talk about life lessons. Timothy said he is trying to learn street smarts by talking about life in the car. We have conversations about how to succeed. We talk about whatever they’re going through. My daughter is independent, but I’ll proofread her school papers. She has three jobs. She is a very hard worker.

WACOAN: As a career-driven woman, how do you mentor your daughter?

Moody-Ramirez: By example. She was there when I was getting my Ph.D. before I had my boys. She saw me model the importance of getting an education. It’s also in her blood.

She is entrepreneurial, like my family was. My dad was a teacher, but he also had a successful landscaping business. His mother had a successful restaurant. This was in the ‘60s, so it was unusual for African-Americans to have successful businesses. That has been passed down to Heidi. She has a small baking business, works for MCC and works at Hallmark. She is very busy.

WACOAN: What does your family enjoy doing in Waco?

Moody-Ramirez: Discovering what’s out there. We like taking the boys to the Waco Downtown Farmers Market, Jacob’s Ladder and Lover’s Leap [in Cameron Park]. People travel here to see those places. We try to take advantage of living in Waco and being close to those things.

WACOAN: What organizations are you involved in?

Moody-Ramirez: Jack & Jill of America, Inc. and The Links, Inc. I’m on the Restoration Haven board. I am a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. That keeps me busy.

WACOAN: Do you have a calendar to keep track of all of your time commitments?

Moody-Ramirez: Yes, it’s on my cellphone. As soon as something comes up, I’ll put it on the calendar. I sync my calendars together so I know what’s going on at all levels. When I’m at home, I can look at my personal and work calendars.

WACOAN: With a demanding schedule, how do you make time for yourself?

Moody-Ramirez: It’s hard. I try to find time to get my hair and nails done. I just make myself do it. I may go on a Saturday night or on Sunday after church. That’s the first thing to go when you get stressed.

WACOAN: Are you still an avid reader?

Moody-Ramirez: I still read, but it’s a different form. I don’t read novels like I used to. I read journal articles and research.

WACOAN: How do you de-stress?

Moody-Ramirez: I get a massage every now and then. She can tell when I’m stressed out because I get a lot of knots. I go to the spa at Pura Vida.

WACOAN: How do you stay energized?

Moody-Ramirez: Your children keep you going. I tell my boys they keep me going. I know I can’t give up because I know my children are watching me. Even when I’m tired, I keep going.

WACOAN: What would a balanced day entail?

Moody-Ramirez: A balanced day would be spending time with my family when I get home instead of working on research papers. Sometimes I have to focus on finishing a paper and the balance will go out the window, but the children are used to seeing me write papers. It was harder for my husband when he came into my family. Now he sees the importance of my research and what I’m doing. He sees the difference I’m making.