Janice Dean Willis (born in the 1950s in Docena) is a Buddhist scholar, author, and professor of religion at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.
Willis left Birmingham to attend Cornell University in Ithaca, New York where she completed a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy in 1969. While at Cornell she was able to take a summer-long study trip to India. She returned many times and became a pupil of the Tibetan master Lama Thubten Yeshe.
She went on to earn a Master of Arts in Philosophy from Cornell in 1971, and a Ph.D in Indic and Buddhist Studies from Columbia University in New York City in 1976. Her doctoral dissertation was entitled "A Study of the Chapter on Reality Based Upon the Tattvartha-patalam of Asanga's Bodhisattvabhumi."
While pursuing her doctoral degree, Willis taught at the University of California-Santa Cruz. In 1977 she accepted a visiting professorship to Wesleyan University where she has remained. She has served as acting director of Wesleyan's Center for African American Studies (1985-86) and as chair of the Department of Religion (1983-84, 88-90, 97-98). Since 1992 she has held the Walter A. Crowell Professorship of Social Sciences.
- Willis, Jan (1972) The Diamond Light of the Eastern Dawn: An Introduction to Tibetan Buddhist Meditation. New York: Simon & Schuster
- Willis, Jan (1979) On Knowing Reality: The Tattvartha Chapter of Asanga's Bodhisattvabhumi. New York: Columbia University Press
- Willis, Jan, editor (1989) '"Feminine Ground: Essays on Women and Tibet. Ithaca, N.Y.: Snow Lion Publications
- Willis, Jan (1995) Enlightened Beings: Life Stories from the Ganden Oral Tradition. Boston: Wisdom Publications.
- Willis, Jan (2001) Dreaming Me: An African American Baptist-Buddhist Journey. New York: Riverhead Books