Meet your professor: Jan Larson


Nick Erickson: What is the coolest story you’ve ever covered?


Jan Larson: I flew out to the Privalov Islands off the coast of Alaska and Russia — I could not see them from my backyard — I flew out to the Privalov Islands to write about the people on St. George and St. Paul Islands and one island had 250 people, one had 500 people. It was fascinating to see how they survived in such a barren landscape and their history of economic and political domination by the Russians who were seal traders, by the US government during World War II. All of these people were relocated because they were afraid that they were going to use the islands as a launching point to invade the US.


That was a fascinating, fascinating story. More recently, I’m just finishing an article about the political and economic challenges that the Moldovan media face in Eastern Europe, and that’s been fascinating to see how they’ve struggled to develop a free and
independent press.


NE: Why did you decide to switch from being a reporter to a professor?


JL: I always knew that eventually I’d want to teach because I always thought that’d be a wonderful way to train up the next generation of reporters. I started a bit earlier than I thought I would, mostly because of the family.


NE: What is one of the craziest moments you’ve had in class?


JL: OK, two things. They took bets on whether or not I would give birth in class because I was so pregnant one year, and I found out about that later because they were so worried, what would they do? They all had a plan of what they would do if Jan went into labor in class, so I thought that was amusing.



The craziest thing I think is that I had a student come and tell me that I was the reason she was breaking up with her boyfriend. I thought, I don’t know anything  about this. Basically, it was something I had said about relationships and I how I felt about my own husband that made her stop and think that she couldn’t say that about her boyfriend and she wanted to, so she broke up with him. It was nice at the end, but at the beginning I was pretty shocked.


NE: What is your favorite part about the city of Eau Claire?


JL: I really appreciate the natural beauty of the region and the ability to do so many things outside, the lakes, the bike trails, running routes, being able to
kayak and sail. I really appreciate that access to the outdoors. Even in the winter I’ve been running. The secret to winter running is layers and not checking the weather before you go (laughs),
otherwise you won’t go.


NE: How rewarding do you find being a professor to be?


JL: Incredibly rewarding. I got into teaching because of my passion for journalism and wanting to see it done right and realizing I could influence numerous people becoming journalists. What I didn’t know is all the other ways that you’d make connections with students. Knowing them personally, mentoring them as young people as well as future professionals, and that has been incredibly rewarding. (It’s been) an honor and a privilege.


When somebody trusts you with aspects of their life that are deeply personal to them, they truly trust you and believe you can be helpful to them in some way, that really is an honor and a privilege to be a part of their lives in that way.