The third floor of Case Hall is home to Baker University’s English department. This floor houses many professors, one of which is Instructor of English, Dr. Rob Howard.
Case 305C is where Howard resides during his work day and the room is far from boring. There are the typical English professor essentials: towering bookshelves, notebooks full of discussion topics and plenty of seating for guests.
However, where Howard diverts from the ordinary is with décor directly related to his specialties. His office walls hold print-outs of Shakespearean comics, memes related to popular authors and maps of the Middle Ages.
Howard received two undergraduate degrees—one in English and another in Classics—and a master’s degree in English from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois. From there, Howard traveled to Kansas to pursue doctoral work at the University of Kansas. He taught there for ten years.
Howard had a unique experience in that, for a period of time, he taught at both the University of Kansas and Baker University at the same time before receiving a full-time position at Baker University.
Howard is teaching an EN370 single author course for the Spring 2020 semester that discusses J.R.R. Tolkien—his favorite author. This class has no prerequisites and is an upper credit course that he would like to see more than just English majors enroll in.
In the Spring 2019 semester, Howard sponsored a form of book club covering “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien. He was approached by students who had an interest in forming the group and Howard was happy to join.
The group is joining again for the Fall 2019 semester and will be studying Stephen King’s “It.” Howard’s special interests in these forms of literature allow for him to contribute to students’ interests and broaden their knowledge on the topics.
Howard also likes to bring popular culture into his classroom to maintain students’ interests.
“I enjoy bringing stuff to the classroom that maybe students didn’t expect. Popular culture is something that I like to incorporate—like with the Tolkien class. A lot of students are surprised to find that that’s the subject of an actual academic course,” Howard said.
Howard understands that topics can be intimidating and he tries to break that intimidation up with humor and a welcoming environment. Howard’s classes tend to be discussion-based and allow for conversations to take unexpected turns without repercussion.
Senior English major Noah Hastings explains why he loves the way that Howard runs his classes. “Howard really likes his class to be student-oriented. The majority of the class is the students talking about the text they read for that day and what they liked about it or found interesting” Hastings said.
Sophomore Reagan Sullivan had a similar experience with Howard’s teaching style and how he makes sure that each student understands what they are doing to the fullest extent.
“I really appreciated the guidance Professor Howard gave to his students. He held individual conferences with us to discuss our final essays at the end of the semester,” Sullivan said.
Howard also understands the importance of what he is teaching when applied to the real world.
“The writing element is of course important. I try to impress upon my students that it’s not just for my class. The writing that my students do is analytical, so it’s more than learning grammar and how to write a good paper—it’s how to think critically,” Howard said.
Howard’s unique interests and teaching style come together to form a classroom environment that students enjoy and succeed in. Howard’s love for literature is something that can be seen throughout all of his actions across campus.