5 Fast Facts with the Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning Faculty Spotlight, October 2018

Meet Dr. Annmarie Kent-Willette, Professor of Communications and Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning.

1. Where she finds her inspiration

Dr. Annmarie Willette and students pose at eventCommunications is my passion, my craft, and my expertise. When done well, the ability to effectively communicate embodies art, draws us together, and empowers change. And leaving the world a little better, is something I think we are all called to do.

My work at Jacksonville University allows me to share my passion for communication with the next generation. My students in turn continue to inspire me. For more than a decade and a half, my students have produced incredible award winning projects. Their work has gone on to garner recognition from regional, national, and international organizations. In the summer of 2018, the work went global, as an EPIC funded interdisciplinary multimedia project was featured at the global Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry in Rome.

2. What she's working on

Picture of Sant'Anna buildings, water, boats, and birdI’ve led study abroad programs at JU for more than a decade and a half.

I am a passionate advocate for quality study abroad programs. I believe education remains the one great hope for vibrant democracies throughout the world. For me, study abroad is an integral part of education, necessary to prepare students for life in an increasingly global community.

During the summer of 2017, I made a last-minute decision to stay behind, and travel alone 500 miles south to Sorrento. After a few minutes on the property knew I found something extraordinary.

Today, Jacksonville University is now the official university of record for Sant’Anna overseeing the instruction, coursework and awarding of university credits and transcripts to all students throughout the world earning academic credit through Sant’Anna.

3. What you might not know about her

Dr. Annmarie Willette and Bill Gates on stage at eventI interviewed Bill Gates as part of my work with the U.S. Conference of Mayors. In fact, he corrected his assistant when she tried to shorten my name to Ann, and reminded her that my name was Annmarie.

In 2013, I was appointed by Mayor Alvin Brown, as the city’s Education Commissioner and senior policy advisor on all matters education. As an executive on loan to City Hall, I worked to enhance equitable educational opportunities for our community.

In addition, I also served on the US Conference of Mayor’s Education Task Force, at a White House Convening on College Access, and was invited to participate in a think tank for the American Association of Colleges and Universities.

Here in Jacksonville, I lead two community wide education summits, and raised nearly a quarter million dollars through grants, corporate donations, and private donors in support educational initiatives in northeast Florida.

4. She loves to write

Buildings in Santorini Through my website Postcards and Prosecco I'm able to share my more creative work. When I'm not at the university, there's a good chance I'm off on an adventure of some sort—looking, listening, and learning from the shared experiences of others. Before I became a professor, I was a television broadcast journalist and came to understand and appreciate the beauty of storytelling through images and words. In the classroom, I remind my students that “Facts are Fun” as I challenge them to move their work out of opinion and into fact based communications. To help illustrate this concept, I developed a series of online travel articles using the “Fun Facts” theme. Over the years, the collection has grown. If you google facts + Santorini, you’ll find my Fun Facts about Santorini at the top of the search. Of all the things I do in the classroom, this google search may be the one that has given me the most credibility with my students.

5. She's always caffeinated

Dr. Annmarie Willette at the Florian coffee shopFor as long as I can remember, I’ve been a coffee drinker. I started early, very early. So early in fact, I have no memory of a life before coffee. My Italian grandmother gave me my first taste of coffee and cream in a baby bottle. As a child, coffee became a part of my homeopathic treatment for allergies and asthma. As an adult, I’ve visited some of the world’s finest cafes including Florian’s in Venice, where coffee was first served in Europe, and the former monastery in Amalfi where a Capuchin monk created cappuccino.