By Hillery Jennings
With a background in American and multicultural literature, University of Phoenix faculty member Mike Cromwell blends his passion for the written word with his love of instruction. At a University of Phoenix conference for new hires in 2015, a group of like-minded faculty met and shared their excitement, educational philosophies and thoughts about student success and motivation. Tagged with the name "Wolf Pack," this group worked together for the next two years and formed a close-knit team.
Cromwell is part of that pack.
Cromwell has been an instructor at University of Phoenix for almost seven years. His curiosity about online learning is what initially prompted him to apply for a faculty position. "To this day, I still like it because I think I communicate well through writing," Cromwell explains.
A graduate of the University of Virginia, Cromwell’s love of teaching did not actually begin until he joined the military and found himself stationed at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. There, he began tutoring civilians on the base. Each day his enthusiasm for student success grew. After leaving the military, he worked as a high school substitute teacher in Oakland, California, before eventually earning his master’s in English at California State University, East Bay.
For Cromwell, his greatest reward comes from a student overcoming early obstacles in a class, asking questions along the way and finishing a class strongly. "When my advice, motivation and compassion help to motivate a student, which in turn makes a difference in his or her life, I feel a sense of accomplishment," Cromwell says.
Before entering education in the late 1980s, Cromwell worked as a newspaper reporter at The Washington Times in D.C. He started on the Foreign News Desk and moved to the Metro Desk as their night police reporter. It was a violent period in Washington, D.C., and Cromwell covered murders and other crimes. It was this experience that fueled his desire to write a crime novel.
He particularly enjoys writing fiction. His first novel, published in 2013 and titled The Good Samaritan, was a labor of love. His most recent project is a three-book children’s adventure series with the first book titled Charlie’s Escape from Home. (It’s available on Kindle through Amazon as well as in paperback and hardcover.) It is a story of suspense, misadventures and unexpected events.
Cromwell says he always has plots and stories running through his mind. One day, while watching his cat, Charlie, inspiration struck. Cromwell went on to develop the three-book children’s series from a blend of real-life events and imagination.
He credits his love of books to his mom, whom he remembers reading to him often when he was a child.
Cromwell’s research interests involve American and multicultural literature. His most recent article, for example, explores Flannery O’Connor’s short story "A Good Man Is Hard to Find." This story attracted him because it appeals to his faith. He believes the message is about condemnation and the unpardonable sin of turning your back on God. He is also interested in producing a piece of scholarship on 20th-century male and female African American literary characters, contrasting the desires and struggles of each.
Balancing his personal life with his professional responsibilities, he finds exercise, walking, playing tennis and lifting weights to be great stress relievers. He and his wife are sports enthusiasts, watching various sports, including football, basketball, baseball and tennis. They also enjoy attending Baltimore Orioles games each season. From the sports world, former professional basketball superstar Michael Jordan is one figure who has inspired Cromwell. He has a picture of Jordan on his office wall. In it, Jordan is posing with a tightly curled fist and a look of determination on his face. The message: never give up. Cromwell looks at this picture every day to keep him motivated.
His taste in music is eclectic and includes rock, R&B, soul, reggae, jazz and some pop. He favors music before 1995, although most recently he and his wife have developed a shared love of Christian contemporary music. He enjoys a good combination of music and lyrics that inspires his spirituality and refocuses his relationship with God. He listens to Danny Gokey and the band Casting Crowns, but his favorite artist at the moment is Francesca Battistelli. "She is incredibly prolific, productive and creative," Cromwell says.
Cromwell’s favorite book is the Bible. "This might not be politically correct for everyone, but the Bible works for me. It is more than a book. It is a spiritual guide that can change one’s life for the better," he says. Perhaps not surprisingly, Cromwell’s favorite Bible story is "The Good Samaritan." "I feel, particularly around this time, we need this type of message," Cromwell explains. "To help each other out with a spirit of not getting anything in return, and without judgment."
He has given a good deal of thought to the future of online education and feels there may be a mild growth in online colleges over time. But there are also many brick-and-mortar schools expanding their online programs. He predicts we may soon see the day where online instruction rivals face-to-face instruction. "I am not always right with my predictions, but we will see," he says.
His dedication to his love of English shines through when he speaks about his fantasy job. "I have always wanted to be the chair of a college or university English department. Now is that dedication to English, or what!"
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