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College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences

Faculty and Staff Profile

Virginia Harrison

Assistant Professor
Fellow, Robert H. Brooks Sports Science Institute

Office: 406 Strode Tower



Educational Background

Ph.D. Mass Communications
Pennsylvania State University 2020

M.A. Media Studies
Pennsylvania State University 2014

B.A. History
Pennsylvania State University 2008

B.A. Journalism
Pennsylvania State University 2008

Courses Taught

Communication in Sports Organizations
Survey of Sports Communication
Public Relations for Nonprofits
Public Relations Writing
Public Relations Campaigns
Mass Media and Society
Public Relations Theory (graduate)


Dr. Harrison is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Communication. She spent seven years in public relations and fundraising practice before earning her Ph.D. at Penn State. Her research explores and seeks to understand the concept of stewardship in donor/supporter communications and relationship building. Dr. Harrison's work has been published in top public relations and sports journals, such as Journal of Public Relations Research, Public Relations Review, and Communication & Sport. She has presented numerous papers at International Communication Association and Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication conferences, where she has won a number of awards. Dr. Harrison teaches sports and public relations courses in the department.

Research Interests

Dr. Harrison's research centers around the concept of stewardship, primarily in the context of nonprofit-donor relationships. She aims to better define, measure, and understand how stewardship plays a role in deepening donor engagement and to explore its value in other contexts with attention to ethical donor relations. Her secondary area of interest is better understanding how corporate social responsibility in sports impacts stakeholder relationships.

Research Publications

Harrison, V. S. (2023). Why relationships fail: Donor insights on defining and understanding successes and failures in nonprofit stewardship. Journal of Public Relations Research, 35(4), 236-258.

Harrison, V., Bober, J., Buckley, C., & Vallos, V. (2023). “Save our Spikes”: Social media advocacy and fan reaction to the end of Minor League Baseball (MiLB). Communication & Sport, 1-23.

Capizzo, L. & Harrison, V. (2023). Theorizing CSA’s impact on nonprofit stewardship: New challenges for ethical corporate partnerships and issue engagement. Public Relations Review, 49, 102293.

Harrison, V. S. (2023). The communicative power of nonprofit actions and values: A pilot study of dialogic stewardship. Public Relations Review, 49, 102280.

Harrison, V. S., Boatwright, B., & Bober, J. (2022). “A manifestation of their city as a god”: Gritty memes, the 2020 U.S. presidential election, and online representations of home. Communication & Sport. Advanced publication DOI: 10.1177/21674795221106115.

Madden, S., Harrison, V., Vafeiadis, M. (2022). Relational care in communication as the basis of nonprofit fundraising: Theorizing professional ethics based in stewardship and ethics of care. Journal of Philanthropy and Marketing. Advanced publication DOI: 10.1002/nvsm.1762.

Harrison, V., Vafeiadis, M., Diddi, P., Buckley, C., & Dardis, F. (2022). Understanding how corporate social responsibility partnership factors influence nonprofit supportive intentions. Public Relations Review, 48, 102184. DOI: 10.1016/j.pubrev.2022.102184.

Harrison, V. S. (2022). Teaching philanthropy: How can public relations courses prepare future fundraisers and motivate giving? Journal of Public Relations Education. 8(3), 49-78.

Harrison, V. S., Vafeiadis, M., & Bober, J. (2022). Greening professional sport: How communicating the fit, proximity, and impact of sustainability efforts affects fan perceptions and supportive intentions. Sustainability, 14(6), 3139. DOI: 10.3390/su14063139.

Harrison, V. S., Vafeiadis, M., Diddi, P., & Conlin, J. (2022). The impact of CSR on nonprofit outcomes: How the choice of corporate partner influences reputation and supportive intentions. Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 27(2), 205-225. DOI: 10.1108/CCIJ-02-2021-0020.

Boehmer, J. & Harrison, V. (2022). No consequences for social irresponsibility? Adidas’ “rent scandal” during the covid-19 pandemic in Germany. European Sport Management Quarterly, 22 (1), 11-34. DOI: 10.1080/16184742.2021.1926526.

Harrison, V. & Erlichman, S. (2022). NFL player protests, corporate social responsibility, and diversion in sports crisis. Journal of Sports Media, 17(1), 119-142. DOI: 10.1353/jsm.2022.0005.

Vafeiadis, M., Harrison, V., Diddi, P., Dardis, F. & Buckley, C. (2021). Examining the impact of CSR partnerships on nonprofits (NPOs): The mediating effect of NPO social-objectives achievement and consumer-brand identification (CBI). International Journal of Strategic Communication, 15(4), 275-292. DOI: 10.1080/1553118X.2021.1945610.

Harrison, V. (2021). Does your corporation “care”? Exploring an ethical standard for communicating CSR relationships online. Public Relations Inquiry, 10(3), 333-356. DOI: 10.1177/2046147X211032913.

Erlichman, S. & Harrison, V. (2021). Coping with tragedy via reflected glory: How the Houston Astros’ World Series win contributed to locals overcoming Hurricane Harvey. Communication & Sport, 9(5), 811-832. DOI: 10.1177/2167479519894672.

Harrison, V., Buckley, C., & Xiao, A. (2021). The roles of donation experience and advocacy: Extending the organization-donor relationship model. Journal of Communication Management, 25(1), 85-103. DOI: 10.1108/JCOM-06-2020-0057.

Harrison, V. S. & Boehmer, J. (2020). Sport for development and peace: Framing the global conversation. Communication & Sport, 8(3), 291–316. DOI: 10.1177/2167479519831317.

Harrison, V. S. (2019). Legitimizing private legal systems through CSR communication: A Walmart case study. Corporate Communications: An International Journal, 24(3), pp. 439-455. DOI: 10.1108/CCIJ-12-2018-0124.

Harrison, V. (2019). “It’s a delicate dance”: Understanding CSR relationships from the nonprofit perspective. Journal of Communication Management, 23(2), 142-158, DOI: 10.1108/JCOM-10-2018-0100.

Harrison, V. S. (2018). Understanding the donor experience: Applying stewardship theory to higher education donors. Public Relations Review, 44, 533-548. DOI: 10.1016/j.pubrev.2018.07.001.

Harrison, V. S., Xiao, A., Ott, H. K., & Bortree, D. S. (2017). Calling all volunteers: The role of stewardship and involvement in volunteer-organization relationships. Public Relations Review, 43, 872-881. doi: 10.1016/j.pubrev.2017.06.006.

Harrison, V. S. (2013). “The community is speaking loud and clear”: Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Planned Parenthood, and the crisis of public opinion. Case Studies in Strategic Communication, 2, 61-92,

Honors and Awards

Page/Johnson Legacy Scholar Grant, Arthur W. Page Center for Integrity in Public Communication at Penn State University, 2022
Fellow, Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver Center for the Advancement of Women in Communication and the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication’s (AEJMC’s) Commission on the Status of Women, 2022
Top paper, Institute for Public Relations W. Ward White Awards for Top Three Papers of Practical Significance, 2022
First place, AEJMC Teaching Paper Competition, Public Relations Division, 2021
Recipient, Djung Yune Tchoi Award for Outstanding Teaching by a Graduate Student, 2020
First place, Carol Burnett/University of Hawaii/AEJMC Award for Outstanding Graduate Student Research in Media Ethics, 2018
Second place, AEJMC Student Paper Competition, Sports Communication Interest Group, 2018
Top Student Paper Session, AEJMC Public Relations Division, 2018
Peer Nomination, AEJMC Research Prize for Professional Relevance, 2018
First place, AEJMC Student Paper Competition, Public Relations Division, 2017


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College of Behavioral, Social and Health Sciences
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