Saluki Pride: Justin Young, leader of the Playing for Pets fundraiser, highlights his passion for teaching

Communications studies instructor Justin Young created a video games class at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and received a $3,000 teaching innovation grant from the College of Liberal Arts, which he used to bring more resources and equipment for his new class. In the future, his goals include building a cross-disciplinary study of video games at SIU, similar to how people study film or literature.

Outside class, Young leads students in a 2-day gaming marathon known as Playing for Pets. Participants spend both days playing 12-hour shifts to raise money for a local animal shelter, St. Francis CARE.

Prior to SIU, Young worked for CBS College Sports, and he runs his own media production company. He is also the cocreator of the award-winning Professor Hobo comic strip and cartoon series.

Get to know JUSTIN YOUNG

Name: Justin Young

Department/Title: School of Communication Studies, assistant lecturer

Years at SIU Carbondale: 3

Give us the elevator pitch for your job.

I teach our upper-level public relations, research and social media courses. That gives me a lot of time with our PR majors, but also with students from around campus. Along with that, I advise our chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America. PRSSA works with groups around campus producing everything from promotional videos to events and social media campaigns. I also produce and host two podcasts for our school (Communication Studies and Saluki Games cast) as well as working with our off-campus recruitment efforts. Lastly, I manage PRSSA’s website ( and the newly launched Saluki Games (

What is your favorite part of your job?

The students. That may seem a trite answer, but it’s true. SIU has great students, and they are what makes teaching classes fun and engaging day to day. I don’t know a single good teacher who doesn’t revel at that moment when all the teaching connects for a student, and they have keen insight into the material. You’re walking on clouds for days after.

Outside of that, academia offers me a lot of opportunities to be creative both in the classroom, but also in research and productions. Last fall, we put on our CMST Day and themed it for Halloween with a costume photo booth, candy and games. The fact that I get to talk about video games in the classroom, on podcasts and even at conferences here and it be taken seriously is a great sign of a supportive, academic community.

Why did you choose SIU?

SIU is very close to home in Kentucky. I came here in high school to go to concerts. I have a Bob Dylan poster from a show I saw here. That was a big factor, but my colleagues are what sold me on it.

What is one video game you can play for 24 hours straight, and why?

I’ve never tried playing a single game for 24 hours, but if I had to pick, it’d be Worms Armageddon. It takes a long time to play, and back in college, my friends and I would regularly do matches that lasted well past 2 in the morning. At 19, it’s amazing what you can accomplish with a goofy strategy game, cheese sticks and a lot of caffeinated soda.

If you can have one exotic animal as a pet, what would it be and why?

One of my college roommates had a sugar glider, a type of possum, and whenever someone came over, she would scream from the back of the house like a banshee. It seriously scared people. Better security than a dog. So that or a badger because they’re nearly indestructible.

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