Bonnie Brownlee, a long-time educator with an interest in international communication, dedicated 34 years to IU and the former School of Journalism as a teacher, researcher and administrator. She retired in 2015 as chair of The Media School’s journalism department.
Brownlee began her IU career as a journalism student in the late 1960s. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1972 with bachelor’s degrees in English and journalism.
Her first full-time job was with a Boston startup that produced the natural sweetener Miracle Fruit. Brownlee’s work cemented her interest in diet and nutrition. She returned to IU for her master’s degree in journalism, with the idea of becoming a reporter specializing in health.
While earning her master’s degree, she participated in a three-month health project in eastern Nicaragua, where she documented the nutritional status of young Miskito Indian children.
After graduation, Brownlee was working as editor of an in-house publication for Marathon Oil when she was invited to manage a radio station in Nicaragua as part of a U.S. Agency for International Development project. The experience formed the basis of her dissertation for her Ph.D. in mass communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Brownlee was hired as a lecturer in the former School of Journalism at IU in 1981 and advanced through assistant professor, associate professor, associate dean and senior associate dean roles. In 1987, she was the first recipient of the school-wide Gretchen Kemp Teaching Award.
As an associate professor, Brownlee taught courses on news and magazine editing, ethics and international communication. She helped develop travel courses, including Media in Latin America, which she taught. She managed a U.S. State Department–U.S. Embassy Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program that twice brought Iraqi students to Bloomington.
In her time at IU, Brownlee was active in faculty development and governance. She served as chair of the Bloomington Faculty Grievance Committee and was a member of the Faculty Board of Review, the Athletics Committee, the Bloomington Faculty Council and the Overseas Study Advisory Committee.
Brownlee held several positions for the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, including head of the international division and member of the teaching and strategic planning committees. She has served on more than a dozen accrediting site teams, a role she maintains, traveling the country to evaluate journalism programs applying for accreditation through the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. She also was a member of site teams in the United Arab Emirates in 2003 and 2005.
During the transition from the School of Journalism to The Media School, Brownlee led the school’s reaccreditation effort for the journalism program, which was approved unanimously by ACEJMC. The program has been accredited since 1948, the first year accreditation was granted. Brownlee’s efforts ensured it will maintain its accreditation through 2020.