GAA Honors Professor Jane Brown for Getting Involved, Involving Others

Jane Brown’s mother taught her that to be part of a community, she would need to work for that community. Brown has been a faculty member at UNC for nearly 30 years, and from the start she saw the campus as her community.

Almost as soon as she joined the faculty, Brown involved herself with University-wide concerns and jumped into committee work within the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where she holds the James L. Knight Professorship for Advertising. She has worked to advance the plight of women on campus and has served on several committees, including the Chancellor’s Staff Advisory Committee. Brown kidded that she’s been on every committee there is.

On Jan.13, the GAA honored Brown with its Faculty Service Award. The award has been handed out each year since 1990 to recognize faculty members whose service has had a lasting impact on the University and the GAA.

Brown’s contributions are not lost on her colleagues, who elected her chair of the faculty in 1994. In that role, she had everyone’s trust, said George Lensing, who served as faculty secretary for part of Brown’s three-year term.

“She 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,” Lensing said. “She was the perfect liaison between the chancellor and UNC administration on the one hand and the faculty on the other.”

While serving the University, Brown has performed extensive research on what she jokingly referred to as sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Her studies of adolescent health and the mass media have examined everything from alcohol and tobacco advertising to violence and sexuality on television. Local organizations like Planned Parenthood and the Chapel Hill Women’s Center have commissioned her services, and the White House has asked her to work on national drug-control policy on several occasions. Her research also has aided the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.

Brown said she is most satisfied with her job when the three parts of the University mission – teaching, research and service – intermingle; when, as she puts it, “what we research is what we teach is how we can give back.”

Brown’s service has been recognized with several University awards. She was 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 is given each year to a woman who has made outstanding contributions to UNC.

Her many accomplishments aside, Brown is also known for having sent a gorilla with a fistful of balloons to a graduate student who was celebrating a birthday and for the large, fuzzy birthday cake hat – with candles and multicolored frosting – that she keeps in her office for her colleagues’ milestones. One of those colleagues, Pat Curtin, said Brown is nurturing as a mentor.

“She’s very inclusive with her research to make sure she gives opportunities to junior faculty and students to get involved, to share authorship, to train them in methods,” Curtin said. “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,” she said.

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