Five Minutes With Joanne Williams, Associate Professor of Journalism and Mass Communication

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Joanne Williams serves as associate professor of journalism and mass communication (JMC) and adviser to The Echo, OC’s student-led newspaper. Her own love of journalism stems from her high school newspaper, working in the field ever since. Professor Williams brings to her role decades of experience working with community newspapers across the country and a passion for student success. She especially enjoys meeting new Comets on move-in day, and attending new student orientation events and campus visits.

What brought you to OC, and why do you love OC?

My husband, Arthur Williams, professor of theater, brought me to The University of Olivet! While we were working in Maine, a former OC staffer landed in our town and told us of this “great little college doing wonderful things” in Michigan. Art got a position here in the late 1990s and after I finished up some work in Maine, I joined him here, first as a staff member then as an educator. Olivet is just as we were introduced to it. From day one, we could feel the energy and passion and mission of this place. It hasn’t left us, or Olivet.

What is your favorite memory from your time at OC?

There are so many, but I think interactions with students and alumni are tops. It makes my day when I open up my email to a note from a former student excited to share about a new job, a promotion, or a life moment that connects them back to their time here. I am so proud of them all and what Olivet has done for so many.

Where does your passion for teaching and journalism stem from?

Back to my husband. He continues to teach me what it means to be a great teacher — knowledge of your subject, passion for your work and a respect for young learners. Journalism will always be in my heart. It is an honor and a privilege and a duty to report with honesty, integrity and accuracy. It is a service to the public and a craft that must be honed every day. My reporting professor in college, Benjamin Layman, taught me that.

What is your teaching style like?

I like to inject humor, questions, debate and engagement. Sometimes it works! I respect my students’ ideas and comments. They need to know that their voice is just as welcome and important in the classroom as mine. Pet peeve, when a professor assigns a reading, you should read, but don’t just read. Dialogue with the author and/or words, engage and question. And surprise — one day, you might write your own engaging work for others. We have a number of JMC students who have done so.

What’s the average day in your role, or some of the unique things you are responsible for?

I keep telling myself I am going to track how many words I type a day. It’s a journalism habit but a passion for me — the power of words, whether it’s an email or a report.

I have the privilege of walking to work each day. Olivet is a lovely town and I often see a neighbor or two to chat with. Coffee in hand, I answer emails, prep and teach classes, attend meetings and advising sessions, and support students and staff by going to games, lectures or concerts. It’s a vibrant, talented community. I also serve on a number of nonprofit community organizations, including the Olivet Community Chamber of Commerce.

Why do you encourage students to attend OC?

I tell students if they want a place where they can create and evolve, this is it. The University of Olivet offers so many opportunities for growth, exploration, failure and success. I rarely find myself saying “no” to a student idea and, more importantly, I rarely hear “no” from administrators and fellow staff members. We are here to propel student success.

What do you look forward to in your role?

Along with my colleague and OC alum Daine Pavloski ‘13, we are invigorating the major. At a small school, we may not have the size or the “flash” of technology, but we have the ability for innovation and one-on-one mentorship. This is a special place and we want to make sure our students get the full advantage of a responsible, engaging field of study.

What advice do you share with students?

Do, dare, be, become. This is the place that allows that. It is all about you now — what you can accomplish for yourself, your loved ones and the world.

What is an interesting or little-known fact about yourself?

I sang at Carnegie Hall! At the University of Maryland, I had the opportunity to join a choir and travel the country and Europe. I still sing and enjoy music. Bucket list: visit all 50 states.

Learn more about The University of Olivet and the incredible journalism and mass communication program by visiting campus. Contact the Office of Admissions at 800.456.7189 or admissions@uolivet.edu with questions.


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