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33 // The Legacies of Elon’s Leaders

CHEERLEADER, COACH, MENTOR, FRIEND

PHOTO BY ASHLEY BARNAS

There are two posters facing Janna Anderson’s desk. “Vision: There is no substitute for hard work” and “Perseverance: A moment’s insight worth a lifetime of experience.” She found them in a bin at Walmart and bought them for her first office in the McEwen Communications building. Those two simple posters embody the way Anderson serves Elon, her students and her colleagues. The quotes, attributed to Thomas Alva Edison and Ernest Holmes respectively, are highly applicable to the characteristic of the work she now does with forecasting the future of the Internet and documenting its past. The “two decent looking posters” in the Walmart bin turned out to be muses of her mantra: Perseverance in seeking out people to empower, and the vision and foresight to document a changing world. Anderson had been working at a daily paper for 20 years before coming to Elon, so serving as adviser to The Pendulum for six years was a great treat. She said Elon’s student organizations provide opportunities to help empower others, and through that the ability empower yourself. But most importantly, those organizations serve a community. “The most important aspect of journalism is community service and working for the public good,” Anderson said. She is a big fan of leaders serving as a coach and cheerleader. “The leaders I admire most are the people who are creative and innovative and they get in and roll up their sleeves and are working alongside the people they lead,” she said. Anderson does just that when she marches into the first class of each semester blowing her whistle to seize everyone’s undivided attention. That first action sets the backdrop of her role as coach and cheerleader. In all four corners of Anderson’s office one can find group photos lovingly taken through the years: Media Writing class photos in front of the First Amendment sign in the lobby of McEwen, Pendulum staff photos and other shots of former students and special events. Part of being her students’ cheerleader is answering the call to be selfless. Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, Vint Cerf and Tim Burners Lee are a few leaders to whom Anderson looks for examples of selflessness. “They don’t consider themselves to be above anyone else,” she said. “And they do roll up their sleeves and get in there and work with everyone else to try to make a better world. They aren’t greedy people. They believe in empowering everyone. Their greatness is not only in their creation but it’s in the way that they share and the way that they look purposely toward lifting everyone, not just lifting themselves.” And lifting others is exactly what Anderson does. She is constantly scanning the horizons for people to thrust into leadership roles and involve in relevant projects. Anderson calls it “talent identification.” She seeks to help people find their bliss

and find confidence in their latent abilities. Anderson targets the quiet freshmen who don’t speak up. She empowers them. “It’s the most fun to help the people who doubt themselves somehow or maybe don’t feel comfortable getting out there and sticking their neck out and getting involved, and inspiring them and helping them recognize their great qualities and then helping them implement those,” she said. It’s a gift to be able to send students abroad to cover special events, Anderson said, something that is often a part of Imagining the Internet. “That project is not my project, but I’m identified with the project because I’ve kind of been at the center of it,” she said. “But so many people have been working on it.” Anderson has sent students to South Korea, Brazil and Lithuania – among many other countries – in recent years to gather predictions for the project’s database. “I would prefer that nobody even know I’m involved with any of this stuff, that I’m just kind of behind the scenes finding these opportunities and matching people to them,” Anderson said. She believes in “leadership for the middle,” which centers on people who are not trying to be superstar leaders who give big speeches and thrive on glory. Anderson wants to create opportunities for others and humbly stand back to watch them achieve excellence, gain experience and “have transformative experiences to serve the common good.” The leaders she looks toward are admirable in their humanity and humble approach, she said. They’re not looking to be stars and probably would not even say they’re great leaders if you asked them. Anderson knows where every one of her graduates has ended up in life, Colin Donohue among them. After graduating from Elon in 2005, Donohue attended the same graduate school as Anderson, the University of Memphis, to pursue his master’s in journalism. He then returned to Elon to teach and serve as Pendulum adviser, again following in Anderson’s footsteps. “Almost everything I’ve done and accomplished in my professional life can be traced back to Janna’s generous guidance and support,” Donohue said. “Whether it be my successes in college, my encounters in graduate school or my varied experiences as a professor and adviser at my alma mater, Janna has influenced me in unparalleled and unmatched ways. My writing career has been shaped by Janna’s teaching and work in the classroom. Any success I’ve had is due, in large part, to Janna’s mentorship.” Anderson has two catch phrases her mentees are sure to remember for life: “Believe in the struggle” and “B-E A-G-G-R-E-S-S-I-V-E.” “All I’m trying to do is help people to achieve their dreams,” Anderson said, “but I’m trying to encourage them to serve the global good.”

Story By Ashley Barnas


The Legacies of Elon’s Leaders // 34

GET TO KNOW Janna Anderson Arrived at Elon in 1999 Hometown: Glencoe, MN “We area called to be architects of the future, not its victims.” - R. Buckminster Fuller

Janna Anderson PHOTO BY JUSTINE SCHULERUD

“If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable.” - Seneca


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