2002 - Travis Montgomery
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Travis Montgomery, a 2002 graduate of Oklahoma Christian University,
was recently awarded a prestigious teaching honor from the University
of Mississippi, as well as a highly competitive doctoral fellowship for
the 2008-2009 academic year. Nominees for the award included not only
other graduate students, but professors as well, so this was quite an
honor. Such a fellowship means he will focus on completion of his
dissertation and will receive a stipend rather than teaching.
For this honor, Montgomery was featured in an article by the University
of Mississippi publication, The Mantle, which is featured below. The
article also details the profound impact Dr. Cami Agan, professor of
Language and Literature at OC, made in Montgomery’s life.
Dr. Agan comments, “While we may not have many millionaires
graduate from the Department of Language and Literature, I strongly
believe that graduates like Travis represent the very highest that OC
can hope to ever instruct.”
To learn more about the Department of Language and Literature, click here.
Many thanks to Johnny Lott and The Mantle for permission to re-print the article and photo. To view the original publication, click here.
“Travis Montgomery: Student and Teacher”
By Johnny Lott
Travis Montgomery, an Oklahoman, won the 2007 Lawrence “Shaky” Yates
Award for Outstanding Teaching in Freshman Composition. Mr. Montgomery
received his B.A. from Oklahoma Christian University, arrived in 2002
at the University of Mississippi, and earned a master’s degree here in
2004. A Ph.D. candidate, he works to balance responsibilities as a
student and teacher. As a recipient of the Yates award, he has been
Mr. Montgomery attributes his teacher success to excellent
professors and mentors. At Oklahoma Christian, he studied with Dr.
Cami Agan, an English professor who sought out promising students and
prepared them for graduate work. In classes, she encouraged students
to express themselves freely, creating a non-threatening space for
dialogue. She also masterfully managed discussions by directing
students to key themes or issues without forcefully driving the
conversation along. Prepared and professional, she exemplified virtues
that she tried to instill in pupils. According to Montgomery, “Dr.
Agan had a remarkable way of making sure her students learned ‘the
basics’ while she involved them in the learning process.”
Mr. Montgomery identifies with, and appreciates the lessons he
learned from watching Agan in action. He follows her example, but
recognizes that it will take years of “seasoning” to achieve her level
On campus here, outstanding professors have influenced Mr.
Montgomery. Included in this group are Drs. Benjamin Fisher, Colby
Kullman, Jay Watson, and Hank Bass. Montgomery praises Dr. Fisher, his
dissertation director, for his wisdom and profound learning. Dr.
Kullman is revered as a teacher who treats his colleagues and his
students with dignity and respect. Dr. Watson receives high marks for
his well-crafted discussion questions to help students engage texts
from fresh perspectives. Dr. Bass, who speaks cogently about his field
to non-specialists, is a model of interdisciplinary outreach.
Mr. Montgomery’s own approach to teaching is pragmatic: “I do what
works. If I sense that something isn’t working, then I regroup and
change my approach,” One specific challenge he faces is getting
students to look critically at their own views and beliefs. The trick,
he says, is keeping the students’ trust. “I encourage them to
investigate issues from different viewpoints. If students trust me and
want to improve as thinkers and writers, then I have a chance. I must,
however, mute my personal beliefs, adopt a balanced tone, and listen.”
Advice for others includes the following:
Commenting on the Yates Award, Mr. Montgomery recognizes his
colleagues in Somerville Hall for helping him sharpen his skills in the
classroom. Composition teachers at UM often share ideas and
assignments, commiserate with each other in tough times, and offer
encouragement when colleagues need it. He says, “If I didn’t have
these folks, then I would be a terrible teacher.” One doubts that this
is entirely true.
-Embrace classroom diversity; it enriches the students’ conversation and writing.
-Don’t use the classroom as political pulpit. Be a guide—not a dictator.
-Keep pedagogical preferences in perspective. A good pedagogy
leaves room for flexibility, and content should take precedence over
-When writing prompts for essays, avoid adverbs and adjectives
that “color” the assignment. You don’t want students assuming that
they have to investigate a topic from a single “correct” perspective.