Jane Brown’s mother taught her that if you want to be a part of the community, you need to work for the community. It’s a lesson she clearly took to heart. She has been a member of the faculty at UNC for almost 30 years, and from the start she saw the campus as her community.
Almost as soon as she joined the faculty, Jane jumped right into committee work within the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and she got involved early on with University-wide issues too. She worked on the status of women on campus and then on faculty assembly committees and two re-accreditation committees, and the chancellor’s advisory committee. At this point, it’s hard to think of a University committee or advisory board she hasn’t served on. She laughingly says that she’s been on every committee there is, and it’s almost literally true.
When her colleagues recognized all she had to offer, they elected her chair of the faculty. In that role, says George Lensing, who served as faculty secretary for part of her three-year term, “Jane had all the markings of a superb leader: complete accessibility to the entire faculty, indefatigable energy, and, perhaps most importantly, a radiant smile and open friendliness for absolutely everyone she encountered. She was the perfect liaison between the chancellor and UNC administration, on the one hand, and the faculty on the other. And that’s because everyone trusted her implicitly.”
While serving the University, Jane continued the research that enabled her to serve a still-larger community: the state and the country at large. Her studies on adolescent health and the mass media have led to important insights about television violence, sexuality, alcohol, tobacco, and the media’s impact on adolescent girls. Local organizations such as Planned Parenthood and the Chapel Hill Women’s Center have called on her to share her expertise, and the White House several times has asked her to work on national drug control policy. Her research has aided the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. This is what Jane means when she says her area of study is sex, drugs and rock-and-roll.
Jane’s work is most satisfying to her when the three parts of the University mission — teaching, research and service — intermingle and create synergy, when, as she puts it, “what we research is what we teach is how we can give back.” One of her mottos is that no one of us is as smart as all of us. She loves collaboration and helping junior faculty and graduate students find what lights them up, what they’re most interested in and how to study what interests them. Another of her mottos is that if you’re doing what you love, work isn’t work. Being a professor at Carolina, she says, is the best job in the world, and it’s even better if you’re getting to study what you want to study and getting to teach what you love.
Her service has been recognized with numerous University awards. She has been tapped to join the Order of the Golden Fleece and the Order of the Valkyries, and in 2002 she received the Cornelia Phillips Spencer Bell Award which was given to a woman who has made outstanding contributions to the University. That was the year the appropriateness of that award first came up for discussion. It led Jane to think more about service — she joined UNC’s naming committee.
She found that all that committee work gave back to her, too. “It got me all around the campus,” she says. “I got to meet people, and it created community. It’s been a great way to know how amazing this place is.”
All her accomplishments aside, when Carolina people think of Jane, other things may spring to mind: such as the gorilla with a fistful of balloons that she sent to a graduate student having a birthday, or the large, fuzzy birthday cake hat — complete with candles and multi-colored frosting — that she keeps in her office for her colleagues’ milestones. One of those colleagues, Pat Curtin, says that Jane has a nurturing, mentoring role that’s rooted in her stellar intellectual ability. “She’s very inclusive with her research,” Curtin says, “to make sure she gives opportunity to junior faculty and students to get involved, to share authorship, to train them in methods. She’s a very astute observer of what’s happening across the University, and she’s empathetic on why things are happening. She’s bright and bubbly and always has a big smile on her face. You always feel better after you’ve seen Jane.”
The Faculty Service Award is presented by the GAA Board of Directors.