Former journalist uses field experience in education
Professor Mary Bohlen
Anchor link to Mary Bohlen video See Bohlen’s advice for prospective students
Meet Mary Bohlen
Associate Professor and Director,
- B.A. Journalism, Southern Illinois University
- M.A. Public Affairs Reporting, Sangamon State University (UIS)
- Before I became a teacher I was a reporter for United Press International Wire Service. I had wanted to be a reporter since about eighth grade. I was the editor of my high school’s newspaper, and then in college I continued to work on the newspaper staff. At UPI, I covered a lot of politics and government and some sports. I got into reporting mainly
because, like A quote by Professor Mary Bohlen, "My biggest thrill now is not seeing my own writing in print, but seeing my students' writing in print."
teaching, you have something different
At UPI our motto was “Deadline every minute” so you would find yourself writing constantly and it was always something different. I was in journalism for ten years, and then I decided to teach. I’ve been teaching at UIS for 24 years.
- I love to travel and have visited all 50 states, most European countries, Korea, Mexico, and Costa Rico. A few years ago, I did a sabbatical in England at Southampton Solent University. I got to teach some classes there and sit in on lectures. Several of the students there interviewed me for their undergraduate thesis on American politics and journalism. That was interesting.
- I have two children, a son and a daughter who’ve both now graduated from college. I think that helps me relate to the things my students are going through. In my spare time, I teach water aerobics; that’s a big passion I have. Mary Bohlen in her days as a jounalist for United Press International.
Mary Bohlen (upper right) in her days as a journalist for United Press International.
- I’m really interested in the effects that media have on women, young girls and adolescent boys, especially the effects of commercials, how women are portrayed in the media and how adolescents react to the media. I’ve developed several courses that focus on those topics.
Major project underway:
- My biggest project right now is chairing the Communication Department and that can be pretty intense—we have a lot of faculty and a lot of students. This summer, I am revising our website to make it more student-friendly.
- I just hope that students come ready to work and ready to apply themselves. I know most students don’t like to sit through lectures; most faculty members don’t like to give lectures very much so I like to interact with my students, but sometimes you have to lecture to get the information across. My method for teaching often depends on the type of class. If it’s a classroom that I feel needs a lot of instruction, we’ll do more lecture-style sessions. If it’s a class that I feel is ready to move to the next step, then we’ll be more interactive and hands on.
- My main philosophy about learning is that it should be lifelong. That people should take the skills that they learn in college and apply them in the real world. I love when I hear back from students saying “you know, I learned something in your class and now I can see it in the real world.” To me, that’s the most gratifying part of teaching. My biggest thrill now is not seeing my own writing in print, but seeing my students’ writing in print.
- I am one of the founding members of the Springfield chapter of the Association for Women in Journalism. It’s mostly broadcast and print reporters from the community. I am a member of the WUIS-WIPA Campus and Community Council and am a big supporter of public radio. I’m involved in a book club and other similar organizations. I also periodically write features for the State Journal-Register.
Advice for prospective students:
- Come prepared to work. Come prepared to take responsibility for your own conduct in class. Sharpen up your grammar, punctuation and spelling skills. Remember that the professors are here to help you. If you get a grade that you don’t think you deserve, go back and reexamine what you did. I get a lot of students who appeal their grades—I get them because I’m the chair—and once they start to look at what they did, they realize that it’s not the teacher giving them the grade, it’s them earning the grade.
Best thing about UIS:
- The real benefit is getting to know your professors, having small classes that are not taught by teaching assistants, and having the opportunity to interact with faculty. The other thing I think is a strong suit of ours is our diverse student body. We have non-traditional students and traditional students. I love that mix in classroom. I might have a grandmother sitting beside a 20-year-old, and they can both benefit from the other’s life experiences. Also, the campus is really growing and changing, which is great, and we still maintain our focus on teaching—this is a teaching university. I also want to reemphasize that college is going to be a life-changing experience for students, and they should embrace it. They should open themselves up to new ideas. You may not agree with everything your professor says, but at least consider the opportunity to learn about new things.