Jannette Dates, Dean of the John H. Johnson School of Communication at Howard University, exemplifies a lifetime of excellence in teaching, landmark research, and a commitment to the academic community. She is a true research pioneer in the area of multiculturalism and media and feminists' perspectives on diversity. Her leadership at Howard University, in AEJMC and BEA, and her commitment to making a difference in multicultural perspectives in the study of media have earned her the recognition to be included in this series of tributes to research pioneers in broadcasting.
From Early Roots in Elementary Education to a Lifelong Commitment to Academia
Described with affection by Connie Frazier, a colleague of over 20 years as "the Energizer bunny," Jannette Dates has exemplified drive, determination, and dedication in her lifelong commitment to education, broadcasting, and issues of diversity in the media (C. Frazier, personal communication, February 15, 2006).
Currently Dean of the John H. Johnson School of Communication at Howard University, Dates began her career as a teacher and broadcaster. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education at Coppin State College and her Masters in education at John Hopkins University. She began her teaching career in the Baltimore City Public School System, where she held the title of classroom demonstration teacher and television demonstration teacher. Weekdays at 9 a.m. she did "school shows" on local television. Later she was executive producer and on-air coanchor of a Black news magazine program titled Northstaron WBAL, the NBC affiliate in Baltimore. Her career path in higher education took her to Morgan State University, where she was an assistant professor in the communication arts program. While at Morgan State, a colleague suggested she pursue the "terminal degree." She said in a 1996 videotaped interview with C. M. Lont at an AEJMC conference in San Diego, "at first I jokingly told him that it sounded like it was a disease" (J. Dates, personal communication, August 1996).
She took the advice, however, and received a Ford Foundation grant to work on her Ph.D. in education administration at the University of Maryland at College Park. She took journalism and radio-television and film courses at the same time, leading her to her interest in diversity and media. On completion of the Ph.D. she joined the faculty at Howard University as an assistant professor in the Department of Radio-TV-Film. Within a 13-year time period she earned the rank of full professor and would eventually be appointed acting dean and dean beginning in 1993.
As an academic scholar, she could not ignore the lack of literature on diversity in the media. Her early students at Howard felt that African Americans were left out of the history texts that focused on media industries. She made it her mission to seek out the history of African Americans in the broadcast industry and weave that information into her courses. She felt strongly that the African American experience in the field should be recorded, recognized, and respected. It was her goal to tell those stories to her students because leaving it out distorted history. Her philosophy was based on a goal to integrate diversity into the curriculum so that students would understand the context of the world and better understand themselves and others.
As a critical scholar she began to look at the effects of television on children, the focus of her dissertation; she later expanded that research to general media effects. Her work has been influenced by feminist theory as well as diversity studies.