In the winter of 1996, Fargo, N.D., was the last place most people wanted to be. Fierce blizzards dumped snow on the states’ residents for months, leading many people to wonder why they lived there, including Janna Anderson and her family.
“That winter a 10-foot snowdrift covered the windows over our home computer, completely whiting out the view,” said Anderson, now an associate professor in the School of Communications. “I spent many long hours that winter at the keyboard, studying the lists of the best places to live in America and looking for job openings and real estate in warm-weather locations.”
Eventually the computer led the Andersons to North Carolina and Elon, and left Janna with a desire to learn more about the Internet.
“We had completely re-invented our lives through use of the Internet,” she said. “It was natural for me to write a thesis on the emerging importance of the Internet to communications.”
During her 12 years as a professor, Anderson has made a big impression on the School of Communications and its students.
“Professor Anderson is a true supporter of her students,” said Elon senior Eugene Daniel. “She’s tough and pushes her students to reach their potential.”
Anderson’s research on the Internet has also allowed her to give students some incredible opportunities. Daniel and several other students had the chance to follow Anderson to the Internet Governance Forum in Egypt in 2009, and Elon also sent students to the conference in 2010. It is this type of experiential learning that Anderson tries to incorporate.
“We often learn about topics through the lens of how it can help reporters, but during the Internet conferences students learn about how the Internet affects every aspect of life,” said Elon junior Rebecca Smith.
While Anderson’s busy schedule for the next year includes teaching a course on the future of the Internet, being the keynote speaker at Webcom in Montreal and beginning work on her sixth book, her commitment to the success of her students will be her first and foremost responsibility.
“She is enthusiastic and passionate about the communications field, but more importantly she is passionate about helping her students,” Smith said. “She spends a lot of time with students outside of the classroom learning about what they want to do and helping them become better reporters and citizens.”