This edition of Who Makes Millersville Special features Robert Spicer ’00, assistant professor of communications & theatre.
Q: Where did you go to college? What did you major in?
A: I did my bachelor’s degree in speech communication at Millersville University and my master’s degree in broadcasting, telecommunications and mass media at Temple University. I am currently completing my Ph.D. in media studies at Rutgers University.
Q: What inspired you to study communications?
A: When I started my undergraduate education, I was an art education major. One semester in my sophomore year I took my first art education course and found I really did not enjoy it. At the same time I was taking Introduction to Communicology with Dr. Isaac Catt and loved the course. I talked to Dr. Catt about switching my major to communications. I found communication theory fascinating in that first class. Even though I was in the broadcasting option, I chose to go to grad school because I found I was more interested in research and teaching than working in television or radio.
Q: What is your past experience as a professor?
A: I started as an adjunct professor at Millersville University 10 years ago. I was teaching here as well as Ursinus College, York College and DeSales University. After doing that for six years, I applied for a tenure track position at DeSales, where I taught for four years until I applied for the appointment here at Millersville.
Q: What do you enjoy most about being a professor?
A: I love ideas, and I love when an idea clicks for a student. There is something very satisfying for me when I have a great discussion in a class about some idea that gets a great reception from the class. I also love when a student is excited about a project, and I get to hear about their work. Then seeing that student succeed, that’s the best part for me. I had a few students present research papers at a pop culture conference last year. One of them won the “Best Undergraduate Paper” award for that conference. Seeing my student win an award for a paper she wrote for my class made me happier than winning an award myself.
Q: How did you first come to Millersville University?
A: I was a student at Millersville as an undergraduate, and I had a wonderful experience here. I learned so much, I had great professors and I really liked the idea of coming back and becoming a colleague and continuing to be a part of this program.
Q: What do you love the most about Millersville?
A: I have been a part of this campus since 1996 when I was a student. I just like it here. I’m not sure I can point to one thing I love about it, I just love being here.
Q: What classes do you teach at Millersville?
A: Right now I am teaching Communication Research Methods, Communication Theory and Introduction to Audio/Video. In the past I have taught a wide variety of courses, including Introduction to Mass Communication, Media Law, Radio Production, Pop Culture, Journalism and Persuasion.
Q: What is your favorite class to teach?
A: My favorite class to teach is either Introduction to Mass Communication or Media Law. I really love law; a large part of my dissertation is about court cases dealing with free speech issues. I find the course to be challenging, and it’s a lot of work, but it is very rewarding and makes for interesting discussion.
Q: You are the new advisor for Communication Studies students. What are you looking forward to the most about this position?
A: I’m really looking forward to meeting a new group of students. I think it’s going to be fun for me to get to know them and learn about their goals and what they want to get out of their education at Millersville.
Q: Along with teaching, you’ve also done research and written publications on political media and pop culture. Why are you so interested in those topics?
A: I’ve always been interested in politics. I was just a kid during the 1988 presidential election, but I paid attention to it and knew the candidates. I remember sitting up and watching the election results on television during the 1992 presidential election, as well. When I was a kid I loved social studies and government classes. So I think there has always been an interest there for me. I’m not sure where it comes from, but I’ve always loved politics.
Q: What was your favorite research publication to work on? Why?
A; My favorite publication so far is coming out later this year in the Jefferson Journal of Science and Humanities. It is the last chapter of my dissertation in which I argue for the creation of a campaign ethics council. Because of the First Amendment, it is actually difficult to make it illegal to lie in political campaigns, so I argue for a non-statutory means of accountability for politicians when they tell a lie on the campaign trail. I liked writing that one because it mixes discussions of the law, the First Amendment and political philosophy, three of my favorite topics.
Q: For you, what’s the most challenging part about research? What’s the most rewarding?
A: The most challenging part of research for me is doing quantitative work. I’m more of a qualitative scholar, but I’m trying to learn more about quantitative methods. To incorporate that into my work has been a challenge, but I have enjoyed it.
Q: What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment as an educator or a researcher?
A: I think my greatest accomplishment has just been the amount of work I’ve gotten done over the last five years. I have been teaching four courses every semester and doing my doctoral work and I have somehow managed to get five publications and numerous conference presentations done at the same time. Just managing the fact that I’m being pulled in multiple directions is an accomplishment.
Q: You are the proud parent of two young children. What do you enjoy most about being a parent?
A: My favorite part of parenting, at least at this stage, is just having fun with my kids. I love walking to the park or going out in the yard and playing ball with the kids. I just enjoy being around them, spending time with them, talking to them. I look forward to sitting around the dinner table at the end of the day and hearing about what they did in school.
Q: Is it difficult balancing parenthood and teaching?
A: It can difficult because work always comes home with me. I always have papers to grade, a paper to write or lecture notes to work on, so it can be difficult to pull myself away from my desk and just be present. I have learned to turn the computer off when it is time to be with the kids and to concentrate on my work when the kids are in bed.
Q: What is your favorite thing to do outside of class?
A: Other than just spending time with the kids, my favorite thing to do is watch baseball. I’m a big Baltimore Orioles fan. I played bass when I was younger, so I intend to pick that up again after I’m done with my dissertation. I like just sitting down and watching a movie or TV with my wife. I’m also an avid bicyclist, although I haven’t had much time for that this semester.
Q: What are your favorite television shows, movies and books?
A: Right now my favorite shows are “Breaking Bad,” “The Walking Dead” and “Game of Thrones.” I also like the Walking Dead comic book. I still read a few comic books occasionally. I’ve been enjoying “Saga,” “Nowhere Men” and “Revival.” Most of the real reading I do is political philosophy and media studies.