Michael Taylor

Professor of Communication

“Talent is good, but hard work is better.”

When Michael Taylor enrolled at Florida State University, he aspired to be a lawyer. He planned to double major in English and business through a program designed to help undergraduates succeed in law school.

After three semesters, Taylor realized that he no longer wanted to pursue a career in law. But through the English aspect of the curriculum, he found an affinity for writing.

Taylor began submitting writings to magazines and eventually earned a fellowship to study creative writing in a master’s degree program at the University of South Carolina. This led to freelance writing for Sports Illustrated, Reader’s Digest, Woman’s Day, and many other magazines.

After graduate school, Taylor worked five years as a full-time magazine writer and part-time teacher. He and his wife Kathy both endured work-related travel. After their son was born, they decided to move back to the South.

“I interviewed for and accepted a position at Henderson, and we thought we’d stay a year or two,” Taylor said. “That was 26 years ago, and we are still here.

“We fell in love with the school and the town, and after our three boys were a little older, Kathy became the human resources director for Henderson.”

When he started teaching at Henderson State in 1991, Taylor began working on an M.F.A. in creative nonfiction at the University of Arkansas for his terminal degree. His thesis became the basis for his first book, Cave Passages, published in 1996.

At the same time, internet journalism was just beginning and he began writing for the websites of the Discovery Channel, ABC News and other media organizations.

As a professor of mass communication, Taylor said he enjoys “seeing a spark of talent in students and helping them recognize it and kindle it into careers.”

“I see my former students now on the evening news and in Arkansas newspapers and magazines and feel pride in their accomplishments,” he said. “For 25 years, students have been telling me I am their most ‘laid-back’ professor. I try to be demanding as far as work goes, but I want the classroom to be a fun space.

“I reward students who try hard, even when they don’t quite succeed. In teaching writing, I am a true believer in the workshop method where small groups critique each other’s work and try to improve it.”

Taylor said he likes the “true liberal arts focus” at Henderson State.

“I can be a journalism teacher who reviews novels, works on documentary films, leads caving expeditions, co-authors NASA microbiology studies, and plays bass in a rock band,” he said. “I think part of the reason our faculty is so effective is not just that we teach students to follow their dreams, but that we embody that spirit in our daily lives.”

Taylor said the media world is shifting at an incredible pace creating an ever-changing job market.

“Today’s jobs may not be tomorrow’s jobs, but in a media-driven society, there will always be new media jobs available,” he said. “Students will need to be flexible and to become able to work within all sorts of media, whether writing news stories, producing video or audio, or creating professional posts for social media.

“The basic media skills have not changed much in the past 100 years, but the way those skills reach an audience changes all the time.”

Taylor urges mass media students to get involved with student media and “leverage that” into internships while they are still students.

“After graduation, your practical experience will be worth much more to prospective employers than the courses you took,” he said.

Away from the classroom, Taylor is an avid cave explorer and plays bass in an all-professor rock and blues band.

“I also love to cook, garden, canoe, play tennis (badly) and play occasional poker (pretty well),” he said. “Everything I do depends on curiosity and a sense of adventure.

“If students can bring those to a major in mass media, they will succeed and have fun doing it.”

Department:
Communication and Theatre Arts

Contact Info:


Degree and School:
M.F.A. in Creative Nonfiction, University of Arkansas

Research:
- Creative Nonfiction
- Comics Journalism
- Environmental Reporting
- Science Journalism
- Book Reviewing

I've been at Henderson since:
1991

Courses