Changing Who Writes History, One Op-Ed at a Time
By Amy Karagiannakis
Jan Erkert – department head, professor, author, dancer, mentor, artistic director, and now a successful op-ed writer – joined 19 other Public Voices Fellows from the University of Illinois this past year as part of the national OpEd Project. The mission of the project is to change who writes history by training underrepresented professionals, women in particular, to write and publish op-eds that draw on their field of expertise. The unfortunate reality is that most opinion articles from our current traditional media sources are written by white men. How does that effect how we consume ideas and form our own opinions? A more inclusive media, one that incorporates the ideas and opinions of our nation’s top experts across disciplines and fields, regardless of gender or race, will lead to major change in public policies and the historical record moving forward.
Jan Erkert has been writing a book on leadership for the last five years. As a dance professor, leader, and expert on the body, she feels that it is her “mission to try to help share what we know as dancers in a broader way.” Most books, case studies, and articles on leadership focus on how to lead from a business perspective, or in other words how to increase productivity and profits. What if the goal is instead to create a transformative community that impacts change for a more preferable future? The Public Voices Fellowship provided Erkert with the knowledge, support, and connections with media insiders to not only write powerful opinion pieces, but also how to make sure her voice is heard. In the past year, she has published op-eds written on topics ranging from diversity education, racism, and George Floyd’s murder to the current political climate, COVID-19 mitigation, and the 2020 presidential election. Each of these was written from a unique perspective that uses part of the body or how the body functions as a metaphor to connect to current news or events. Erkert shared, “Everybody has a body full of wisdom. What can our body teach us about the way we live life and lead? As a dance artist, I have had the privilege of cultivating messages from my senses…daily. It is a requirement of the job. I hope to shed light on how people can access the body to understand how they’re living their life and why they or others make the choices they do.”
Follow Jan Erkert at authory.com/JanErkert to read her current and future op-eds.