Professor Spotlight: Dr. Janice Collins

By Indira Midha


Dr Collins Emmy

Janice Marie Collins, Ph.D.



IM: What is your position at Illinois?

JC: I am an assistant professor in the College of Media (Journalism Department) and Institute of Communications Research. I teach mainly broadcast journalism, multimedia, courses as well as a course in de-marginalization and leadership development for a MDIA course.


IM: Where did you attend college?

JC: Here is my education history!

Ph.D. in Mass Communications, Ohio University, March 2009

Scripps College of Communications, School of Media Arts and Studies and Associate Certification in Women’s Studies

Primary Concentration: Media Management and Critical Cultural Studies

Dissertation Title: Finding Leadership in the “Real” World of News: The Professional Socialization of Leadership Development and Issues of Power, Self Esteem, Gender and Race in a Broadcast Journalism Lab, A Case Study

Research Areas: De-Marginalization, Socialization of Leadership Development and Issues of Power, Image Portrayals in and by the Media, and Critical and Empowering Pedagogy.

M.S. in Journalism, Ohio University, August 2005

E.W. Scripps School of Journalism

Primary Concentration: Mass Communication and Broadcast Journalism

Area Studies: Image Portrayals and Role Representations of Ethnic Groups and Gender on Broadcast Television and Primetime television commercials, Print and Broadcast Journalism

Research Interests: Image Portrayals and Role Representations of Black, White, Hispanic, and Asian Americans in Prime-Time Television Commercials, Roles of Journalists during the Emmett Till Murder Trial, Communication Theory

Thesis Title:  Distorted Snapshots of Reality: Role Representation and Image Portrayals of African American, White American, Hispanic and Asian American Characters in Prime-Time Television Commercials

B.A. in Speech Communications and Theatre Arts, Wake Forest University, May 1986

Major Concentration: Communication/Rhetoric

Certification in Women’s Studies

Areas of Studies: Public Speaking, Rhetoric, Radio/TV, Theatre, Film, Drama


IM: What is your professional history like?

JC: I have 20+ years of experience in professional journalism. My bio reads as follows, “Dr. Janice Marie Collins is a multi -Emmy, Associated Press, Best of Gannett award winning journalist with more than 20 years of experience in the journalism industry and an award-winning professor with 14 years of teaching experience on the university level. She was selected as one of the Top 50 Journalism Professors in the nation of 2012 by and has received recognition for her teaching and service, including a Faculty of Excellence award by the Department of Minority Affairs at Eastern Illinois University and an Excellence Award for Teaching and Service at Hampton University. She has, consistently, made the Teachers of Excellence List at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign over the past years.

Her latest publications include 250 Years and Still a Slave: Breaking Free with Active Centralized Empowerment, a Critical Cultural perspective book on race relations from a social-psychological platform that prominent educator, Jane Elliott, has called “a Great read!”; an award-winning television broadcast program and web-series called A Taste of Gullah that aired regionally on PBS and won Best Documentary at the International Garifuna Film Festival in Venice, California; an article on leadership development titled Leadership Development in College Newsroom Labs: It’s Transactional, in Journalism & Mass Communication Educator; and just completed a comprehensive documentary series that chronicles her trip back to her maternal ancestral land of Sierra Leone, West Africa and the Mende tribe called Journey to My Mother’s Land: Extending the Gate’s Effect. Dr. Collins’ research focuses mainly on processes of De-Marginalization through Self- Empowerment and Leadership Development and issues of Power. For 2 consecutive years, Collins won first place in the Open Paper Competition at the National Broadcast Educators Association Conference as, both, coauthor, and sole author. Presently, she is writing a book on Active Centralized Empowerment-a praxis and pedagogy that she developed that directly addresses Marginalization and collaborative learning in the classroom.”


IM: What do you love about teaching at Illinois?

JC: Illinois is one of the best schools in the nation, so to teach here means that I have access to some of the brightest teachers, researchers and scholars, faculty, staff and administrators. Because this university has so much to offer, I have the rare privilege of working from the intersecting platforms of research and creative endeavor, scholarly work, teaching and service. In other words, my empirical research, creative endeavor, scholarly work, teaching and service all work together towards my studies on leadership development, de-marginalization, and collaborative work spaces. I like to research the best pedagogical design for empowering students, for example, then look for ways to apply what I have found in my research, classroom, service and creative endeavor. I’m sort of an anomaly of sorts because I swim in the best of both worlds, the practical and the empirical, and I love the fact that I can do this type of exploration at Illinois. Plus, I LOVE working with students…I love to see them develop right before my eyes each and every semester. I love the fact that I may play a teeny tiny role in their ability to secure a job as well as a future. I just basically love to see them, and people in general, achieve and succeed in life in positive ways. I take my job as an educator, on every level, seriously…it is a great passion for me…and I see it as an honor and privilege to teach these great students at Illinois.


IM: What made you want to teach?

JC: I have always wanted to be a teacher. But I also wanted to be a journalist, lawyer, and president of the United States…oh yeah, I’m also a creative. Music, writing and acting were my first loves. I just knew that I wanted to do my part or play a role in supporting others achieve their dreams. I also knew I was going to be a doctor of some sort. I had a wonderful signature for it (smiling) so I was 1/16th of the way there, but I also wanted to assist individuals in their trek to live better lives and reach their optimal abilities. So, I was either going to be a doctor of medicine or philosophy…Philosophy won and I couldn’t be happier. I have to also say that my mom and dad, former teachers and a large number of my relatives played a role in me wanting to be a teacher. My mom and dad were my first teachers. Straight out of high school, my mom worked full time and put herself through secretarial college and was brilliant in English, Philosophy and Language. My dad, was also a brilliant student, in math, specifically, and went to college at the age of 15! He could have gone earlier, even skipped some grades early on, but his parents, being just hard working people, didn’t really understand how the system worked back then. But, it all turned out great! In my family, my siblings are kind people who are also quite smart and I have a large number of teachers, nurses, and educators, even Ph.D.s in my extended family, so I was exposed to the notion of teaching and education really early in my life. I would also say that I believe teachers play important roles in the lives of their students. The impact can last a lifetime. I was really blessed to have these kinds of teachers in my life. They were the ones who had me for a large portion of the day and taught me subjects, disciplines, but also, helped me to learn about myself and sense of Self. Finally, I wanted to teach because I continued to witness students graduating from college with bright eyes and dreams, only to find out that they really weren’t prepared to enter a newsroom. I thought to myself, “what are they actually being taught in the classroom?” As a professional practitioner, I thought I could help, so I applied for a teaching job, got it, and then earned my Masters and Ph.D. and the rest is history in the making.


IM: What things do you like to do in your spare time?

JC: I like to listen to music, tinker with my acoustic guitars a bit, read biographies or autobiographies, play chess, cook any and everything from scratch, ocean and deep sea fishing is my passion, camping, hiking, and horseback riding. I could go fishing, crabbing, lobster diving, clamming or oyster digging every day!


IM: If you could only instill one lesson in all of your students, what would it be?

JC: That there is something wonderful, special and unique that only THEY can offer the world. They were born with it…inside of them. Their job is to try and enjoy this journey called life as they seek to discover just what this special contribution is and then share it with the world! Carpe Diem!


IM: What is your favorite experience that you have had at Illinois so far?

JC: Every day provides a great experience for me here at Illinois. I love working alongside some of the best in the industry and profession. I love working with colleagues across campus, across disciplines who are the very best in their fields of study and research. I love the wonderful support I have received from staff, administration, committees and even departments that assist me in various ways with day to day responsibilities, my research, publications, and scholarly travel. But, I have to say that one of my favorite experiences that I have had at Illinois thus far has to be the pride that I feel for each and every student when I look at how they have developed, how far they have come, at the end of each semester. Many of my students begin with uncertainty and nervousness about their abilities and whether or not they will even succeed in my classes. Through hard work, putting some trust in me and some trust in themselves, they accomplish things they didn’t think they could and I am ALWAYS proud of them and the work that they do. I am PROUD that they accepted the challenge my class presents and, at the end of each and every semester, to see the pride that they have in themselves and their ability to not only be better storytellers but more effective leaders and collaborators is truly special. Each and every semester, I get to witness students take flight, confidently soaring onto the next challenge or adventure with pride because they have learned. These are the moments that a professor looks for, hopes for, and I have the distinct pleasure of having these experiences each and every semester over and over and over again. I am truly blessed.


Image Sources:

Image courtesy of Dr. Janice Collins

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