Welcome Holly Overton, the Page Center’s newest senior research fellow

September 17, 2020 • Jonathan McVerry

Holly Overton, senior research fellow

Holly Overton is joining the Arthur W. Page Center as a senior research fellow this year, but she is no stranger to the Center. She was named a Center scholar in 2014 while a Ph.D. student at Penn State, and Overton has since worked on several Page Center projects as a faculty member in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of South Carolina. She will be leading a call for research on Corporate Social Advocacy.

In today’s media landscape, consumers expect companies to take a stand on issues. Do their actions match their messaging? What implications does it have on business? How does a company maintain relationships with stakeholders after choosing a side?

Over the next four months, the Page Center is accepting academic research proposals to help answer these questions and more. The call is a part of the Center’s Page/Johnson Scholar grant program that annually accepts research ideas on timely topics facing the fields of corporate and public communications.

“I think a lot of companies are trying to find better ways to engage stakeholders, earn trust and legitimacy and build a positive reputation beyond profits,” Overton said. “I hope our research will help companies do that effectively in an authentic and ethical way.”

Overton invites proposals that focus on theory development, but scholars should not limit themselves to that. Topics within the Corporate Social Advocacy theme may include audience engagement, challenges of taking on controversial issues, potential consequences of getting political, new strategies and other topics.

"It's a privilege for me to work with the Center. It has helped me become who I am today. It's been an inspiration to the work that I’ve done and it’s really helped me build my research."

“The call is intentionally broad because I didn’t want scholars to be tied to a single topic or approach,” she said. “I’m interested in theory development, but also studies that are applicable to corporations beyond what they sell…something that’s really going to tell companies how they can do business for good.”

Research proposals are due Jan. 15, 2021. This year, Overton’s call is one of three in the Page Center’s grant program. Senior research fellow Stephanie Madden is leading a call on the Ethics of Care and a special call for curriculum development on Activism.

"It's a privilege for me to work with the Center. It has helped me become who I am today," Overton said. “It's been an inspiration to the work that I’ve done and it’s really helped me build my research."

A winner of multiple research awards, Overton is heavily involved in the field of communications research – specifically corporate social responsibility, corporate social advocacy and sustainability communication. She has been published—including some Page Center studies—more than two dozen times. Overton is also the vice-head elect for AEJMC’s Public Relations Division. She has taught at South Carolina since 2016. She was an assistant professor at Shippensburg University during her time as a Ph.D. student at Penn State.

The Page/Johnson Legacy Scholar grant program is the Page Center’s primary function. Since its 2004 founding, the Center has funded more than 200 scholars and awarded more than $900,000 in research funding making it an international leader in research on ethics and integrity in public communication.