Story by Lindsay McNeish
Janae Brown, communication studies and ethnic studies double major, received the Outstanding Junior in the College of Liberal Arts award from Phi Kappa Phi on April 19, 2018. Phi Kappa Phi is an all-discipline National Honor Society promoting academic excellence and service to others. In order to be eligible for the award, students must be in the top 7.5 percent of their entire class.
Brown was nominated for this award by professors. Her nomination letter emphasized her “work towards diversity and inclusion” and her commitment “to helping students who hold marginalized identities gain visibility and support on campus.” She’s also been recognized on the Dean’s List and has received several GPA Awards from other groups on campus and “excellence in her civic life.”
“Since I started applying to college, I’ve been discouraged,” said Brown. “I had a 4.2 GPA in high school, I was involved, and I didn’t receive any scholarships or recognition. This award is a big deal because people finally noticed all my hard work.”
Brown’s favorite theme of communication studies is relational and organizational communication because of its application to real people in real life.
“I feel like communication and relational life are important aspects of our everyday life,” said Brown. “I see the importance of my degree because we have to deal with people all the time.” Her favorite classes in communication studies have been Interpersonal Communication, Nonverbal Communication, and Co-Cultural Communication.
“These classes show me how communication is evident in everything,” said Brown. “In my nonverbal class we watched a video on how to read people for deception. In interpersonal we’ve evaluated movies and how relationships develop.”
Aside from nominating her for this award, Brown’s professors have been hugely influential during her time at CSU.
“Sometimes they see things in me that I don’t see in myself,” said Brown. For example, last semester, Eric Aoki called Brown to his office to talk about a paper she’d written on the absence of black women’s communicative styles in communication studies. He urged her to continue her research on the paper and apply to an upcoming research conference. Another professor, Elizabeth Williams, told her graduate school is a possibility for anyone, including first generation college students like Brown.
Through her professors’s encouragement and her own personal drive, Brown plans on attending graduate school to continue studying communication studies. She hopes to dig deeper into the topic she wrote for Aoki’s class, combining her interests of communication studies and ethnic studies into one.
Brown credits double majoring in communication studies and ethnic studies with giving her the confidence to speak up on issues that matter to her. She says the combination of the two majors has helped her frame language around people with marginalized identities, including herself.
“In class Janae is a quiet leader,” said Williams. “When she speaks up her words carry great value – she expresses herself thoughtfully and deliberately. She is an agent for change on this campus.”
“I’m not Native American, but if we’re talking about indigenous issues, I will speak up,” said Brown. “Who else is going to? I’m not trying to take on their stories, but I’m here to let people know that they still exist today and even though we don’t talk about them a lot, they’re still important.”
Brown is also quite active in her community of peers. Last week on April 11, her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha, put on an event about the importance of voting in the upcoming midterm election.
“We feel like a lot of people, millennials especially, are discouraged but they don’t understand that they have a voice,” said Brown. “But there are things that we have power in changing. Everybody has a voice. We’re keeping the dialogue open so everybody feels like they’re heard.”
She’s also been active as a member of the Undergraduate Committee for Communication Studies.
“We’re focused on bringing in the visibility of voices of people in our department who hold marginalized identities,” said Brown. Recently, the undergraduate committee earned a grant to build programming for first generation students in the department.
“None of this stuff is going to change overnight,” said Brown, “but you can keep yourself surrounded by people who are willing to change and forgive.”