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Willis gets practical - wins Lander's young scholar award

July 03, 2008
With just two years at Lander University behind him, assistant professor of English Dr. Lloyd Willis has a lot to show for it. He was a featured lecturer in the College of Arts and Humanities Distinguished Speaker Series. He has continuously revamped his classes to make them pertinent to student interests, and he has also made great strides toward integrating technology into his curriculum.
 
While doing all of this, Willis still managed to work on two books. One is titled " Environmental Evasion: Literary, Critical, and Cultural Politics of 'Nature's Nation,' 1823-1966." The other, a collection of essays on Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, is titled "Reconsidering Longfellow in the American Canon." Willis plans to have both books completed by the end of the summer.
 
Willis's work at Lander has not gone unnoticed by his peers, and this spring his efforts earned him Lander's 2008 Young Faculty Scholar Award. The award recognizes a new faculty member with the best record of scholarship who exemplifies the qualities the Lander faculty values in its colleagues as teacher-scholars.
 
Of his time at Lander Willis said, " I have really enjoyed working with my colleagues in the English Department and I have become attached to the Lander students. I feel that I have a lot in common with them. Like many Lander students, I, too, was a first-generation college student, and while I did have some great scholarships to help me along, I worked quite a bit while taking classes. I worked on campus as a writing center tutor, but I also worked off campus in landscaping and lawn maintenance." 
 
Willis went on to say that seeing his students combine education with work gives them a very practical outlook. "They always want to know what their classes are doing for them," he said, "and I try to work with those emotions. If I can make my students understand that I am giving them the critical thinking and communication skills that they will need to have better careers and live better lives, they generally meet me halfway and do their part."
 
Looking forward to the next academic year, Willis plans to shape his freshman level English 102 course so that the subject matter will be relevant to students in light of the approaching presidential election.
 
"Since the election will take place during the fall term, the class will follow the theme of civic engagement. We will spend most of the semester examining what it means to live in a representative democracy," said Willis.
 
In the last few weeks of the semester, Willis' students will read Cormac McCarthy's post-apocalyptic novel, "The Road." He said the novel, "Should allow students to think about how to read literature in general and to think about the role apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic tales play in 21st century American culture."
 
Willis' use of this novel is also timely since a film adaption of the book, starring Viggo Mortensen, will make it to the screen in late November just as the students are finishing the novel.   
 
Willis has a bachelor's degree from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and a master's degree in American Literature and a doctorate in 19th century American Literature from the University of Florida.