Dr. Roxanne Mills
One important mark of significant academic research involves a scholar’s ideas being picked up and expanded upon by academics at other universities. Recently, one of OCU’s faculty members, Dr. Roxanne Mills, assistant professor of English, received some exciting news in this regard. She was contacted by Dr. Dennie Smith, the department chair of Teaching, Learning, and Culture at Texas A&M University. Dr. Smith informed Dr. Mills that he was basing his present research project and “the development of a model to better improve academic leaders,” on a professional article Dr. Mills had recently had published in the journal Education. To read this article, go to the following website:
A highly published author, Dr. Mills has a number of professional research articles found in academic journals including Education, College Student Journal, American Secondary Education, The Social Studies, Indiana Magazine of History, and the Journal for the Liberal Arts and Sciences. She has also co-authored with her husband, Dr. Randy Mills, an OCU professor, a highly acclaimed book on the call-up of Marine Corps Reservists during the Korean War. In this feature piece about OCU faculty and staff scholarship and research, Dr. Mills tells us more about her own research, and how it informs her teaching at OCU.
Please tell us about your educational training.
I obtained my B.A. in English from then Oakland City College, my M.S. in English Education from Indiana University, and my Ed. D. in Educational Leadership with a concentration in English from Oakland City University. Since graduation from that program, I have participated in several professional workshops, the most in writing fiction.
How did you come to be so heavily involved in research and writing? What impact does it have on your teaching?
Writing has always been an important part of my life. I was writing in bits and pieces even as a child. My interest in writing eventually led me to a love for teaching English. I believe if a person can write well, he or she can better think about, understand, and work through problems. Since I began teaching on the college level, I have focused on three different areas of research and writing— creating fiction and dramatic non-fiction, improving student writing skills and improving educational leadership. I furthered discovered, as I struggled to find the time to teach and also research and write, that pursuing my writing interests in the summer adds vitality to my classroom teaching during the school year and has often enabled me to bring cutting-edge ideas to the students. Researching, writing, and teaching, at least for me, is a very effective combination. While primarily a teaching institution, OCU encourages faculty and staff to research and seek publication, and I am thankful for that.
Tell us about the research that caught the eye of Dr. Smith at Texas A&M.
My research for that particular article came as a result of some of my research in the Educational Leadership program at OCU and focused on educational administrators and what has been called “the second half of life.” Administrative positions in higher education often come to professors when they have reached their late 40s or early 50s. Research suggests that this is also a time of great personal change and stress, and for many individuals, a time of personal, spiritual soul-searching. I specifically looked at the personal journals of Abraham Maslow as a case study to see how one academic dealt with the tensions involved when moving into an administrative position at a time when one’s personal values system might be changing due to aging. I believe this case study approach was what caught Dr. Smith’s attention. He also pointed out to me that aside from my work, little has been published up until now on the subject.
What are some of your future plans for research and teaching?
I have two major research ideas presently that I would like to pursue. One concerns what faculty members and administrators at OCU see as the most important student writing skills. The other project involves my interest in writing dramatic non-fiction. An ancestor of mine, David Stormont, was involved in the local Underground Railroad effort, and I would like to write about this event for submission to a history journal. Also, my husband, Randy, who also teaches at OCU, and I have been kicking around the idea of writing another book together. We already have a rough draft of a manuscript about grave-robbing and two unpunished murders on the Indiana frontier. I also plan to write more fiction in the future.
From your perspective, what should a student looking to find a solid English program know about the opportunities here at OCU?
The core courses for an English major at OCU contain many diverse subjects that make up the field, such as language, writing, media, and literature. With their electives, students have the opportunity to increase their learning in areas of interest, especially literature and writing. My favorite course to teach is the Advanced Composition course, which can be taken three times with different topics: short story and poetry, beginning a novel, and beginning a screenplay. I conduct these classes as writing workshops, and I love the energy that students bring to this approach. Students who take the course all three times often “wow” me with their growth.
Looking toward the future, our English department plans to offer a course next year in technical writing. We’ll be watching the response in this area because research has shown that jobs in technical writing are some of the most popular among currently graduating English majors. Those jobs are also some of the highest paying, and Occupational Outlook 2010-2011 predicts the job market for technical writers will grow by 18% over the next decade. If we find a strong interest here at OCU, we may want to look toward building on that part of our program.