By Molly Cline
From the printing press to reporting in a time with many technological advances, Professor Jennifer Follis knows the ins and outs of journalism. She teaches Introduction to Journalism, Journalism 200, News Editing, Journalism 320 and a science-based journalism class, Journalism 471.
Molly Cline: What is your favorite part about teaching?
Professor Follis: My favorite thing about teaching is getting to know the students- individual students and small groups of students.
MC: You went to college at the University of Illinois. Have you always wanted to stay here and be a professor here?
PF: It was never in my plan. Here’s what happened: I finished my bachelor’s degree here and then I went to work for the News Gazette. The university had a need to add a section of editing; graduating seniors needed a class and they had nobody else to teach it. Since I was in town and they knew me, they called me and asked if I had any interest in teaching the class. I taught the one class and then next year they asked me to do it again. I did that part-time for quite a few years and then I went full-time in 2000.
MC: What made you decide to pursue a degree in journalism?
PF: I don’t remember when I decided. It is something I always wanted to do truly. When I was a little girl the newspaper was always on the kitchen table when I woke up. I was always very interested in the news. From the time I was in middle school I thought that was what I wanted to do. I was also a child in the ‘70s, so I was a teen during Watergate and the Pentagon Papers. It was formative. There was an investigative reporter named Don Bolles who actually was car bombed when I was a high school journalist. He lay dying in a Phoenix hospital for days and days and days, and that really cemented my conviction that journalism was an important thing to do in society.
MC: What is the most challenging part about being a professor?
PF: The most challenging part about being a professor is trying to find the right way to connect with each student.
MC: Besides teaching, what are some other things that you like to do?
PF: I like to work out. I walk with my neighbor every weekday morning. I go to the YMCA body pump class. I really enjoy that. I like to cook and I enjoy spending time with my family. I have a husband and I like to travel.
MC: Where is your favorite place to travel?
PF: I really like going to Michigan and I like going to the Southwest. I was a teenager in Arizona, so I like going back to the desert. I’ve been very privileged; I have gotten to go to the Middle East and Africa. Cape Town, Africa is very beautiful.
Photo courtesy of Molly Cline