She is a dynamic and respected media voice, leveraging her bully pulpit on MSNBC to push for tough conversations on feminism, race, economic inequalities and gender identity in ways that have long been swept under the collective rug. Talk show host Melissa Harris-Perry shares how her “real job” as a professor distinguishes her from the punditry pack.

If Nerdland were an actual place rather than a wry nickname for her eponymous weekend talk show, there is no doubt that Melissa Harris-Perry would reign in perpetuity. Her loyal subjects, who watch the program on weekends at 10 a.m. ET or communicate with her on Twitter, rival Beyoncé’s fervent online “BeyHive” if not in numbers, certainly in passion.

And that devotion is returned by Harris-Perry, who commutes to New York City every week from her day job as a tenured professor at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.

“My identity is as a college professor,” asserts Harris-Perry, who teaches politics and international affairs at the school where her personal mentor, the late Maya Angelou, taught. “I did not come up through the ranks of journalism, but I think what being a professor does to distinguish me from my peers is that it makes me likely to see stories in different places and to have different types of guests.”

Read more in the December 2014 issue of EBONY Magazine.