Photo courtesy of the Medill School of Journalism Department Faculty Page


By Kali Robinson

Most Medill students may know Dr. Ava Thompson Greenwell as the faculty advisor of the South Africa Journalism Residency Program, but her journalism career isn’t confined to Evanston, Cape Town and Johannesburg.  A native of Chicago’s South Side, Greenwell attended Whitney Young Magnet High School before matriculating at Northwestern in 1980. At NU, she received her bachelor’s and master’s from Medill, and returned to complete her Ph.D. in African American Studies in 2014.

Greenwell worked primarily in broadcast journalism after graduating, and held positions at local new stations in Minnesota, Indiana, Florida and Illinois. She was even employed by Chicago’s own WGN-TV. Greenwell returned to Northwestern in 1993 as an instructor rather than a student, and she has been part of the Medill faculty ever since. In addition to her role as a professor, Greenwell was Associate Dean from 2002-2006, served as Director of the McCormick Fellows program from 2007-2009, and has been the Video/Broadcast chair since 2014.

Teaching has not stopped Greenwell from pursuing her own projects. In 2006, she received the Radio Television News Directors’ Foundation Educator in the Newsroom Fellowship, which allowed her to spend four weeks working with Chicago’s CBS 2 news station. Greenwell is known for her research on the intersection of race and gender in TV journalism, as well as her work on documentaries. In 2016, her film “From Chicago to South Africa” was featured by the Diverse Voices in Docs program, organized by Kartemquin Films and the Community Film Workshop of Chicago.

Greenwell is a longtime member of NABJ, which she joined in 1988. She continues to be involved with organization at the national level, but also makes time every year to welcome Medill’s Black faculty and students into her home in Evanston for food, advice and bonding.