Featured Faculty: Dr. Laurie McMillan


Photo credit/ Stephanie Leone

McKensie Curnow, A&E Editor

Associate Professor of English and Writing Coordinator, Dr. Laurie McMillan has recently entered her 11th year of teaching at Marywood University.

McMillan’s recipe for successful teaching includes lots of laughter and a modern approach, using the latest media tools to prepare her students for today’s digital world.

She has been a writer for as long as she can remember and credits her passion for writing to reading a lot as a kid.

“I used to write a lot of poetry and work on the school magazine when I was in high school, so I just have always done a lot of writing. My teachers really supported my writing, so I felt successful with it, also,” said McMillan.

McMillan earned her Master’s and Ph.D. in English Literature, as well as a Graduate Certificate in Women’s and Gender studies from Duquesne University.

Combining her love for writing and her modern approach to teaching, McMillan utilizes blogging for both professional and personal use.

She also sometimes uses blogging in the classroom to communicate with students. She has three individual blogs that she uses: WinkyFace Margin Notes, Laurie Mac Reads, and Laurie Mac’s How To.

McMillan first created Laurie Mac’s How To video blog. She was inspired to create the video blog after she heard a speech from Dr. Bump Halbritter, Associate Professor of English at Michigan State University, at a conference.

“In his presentation, he said ‘If we are going to teach students to write using new media, we need to be using it ourselves,” said McMillan.

Her first series of video blogs include goofy how-to videos. Her first video, for example, was “How to Eat a Cupcake.” She used her video blog as her primary platform, and eventually started using YouTube as her secondary platform.

“I didn’t realize that YouTube would be such a go-to destination for people so I thought of the video blog as the go-to destination and YouTube was just a way of posting to the blog. And it was after I started that I realized I got much more traffic on YouTube and that that was really the destination,” said McMillan.

Once she found potential in YouTube, she was hooked.

McMillan noted that YouTube is a “fantastic place to create a brand and share it publicly.” She also realized that many English majors in their first jobs outside of school would be responsible for managing social media, such as YouTube, for their companies.

“To have an entrepreneurial attitude toward YouTube is a way of stepping up your own game even if you’re struggling to find employment in your field, and suddenly you have this awesome skill that you can sell yourself with,” said McMillan.

After gaining success, and even some money, with her how to channel, she partnered up with Associate Professor and Director of Broadcast Journalism Program, Dr. Lindsey Wotanis, to create a new channel.

After some brainstorming, the team came up with the idea of WinkyFace. WinkyFace started out with three different kinds of videos: behind the scenes videos, parodies of faculty life, and interviews with literary characters.

With a combination of both fun and stress, they figured out YouTube and overtime, they expanded what kinds of videos they do. For example, they created a video where professors read mean evaluations in response to talk show host Jimmy Kimmel’s “Celebrities Reading Mean Tweets.” The parody video has been shared by both MTVu and Rate My Professors.

Their studies of YouTube and work with their WinkyFace channel have led to their brand new course they are co-teaching, YouTube Writing and Production.

“We are working on a textbook proposal for a YouTube textbook. We also are in the process of writing an article about lifelong learning in the digital age. We think it’s important that faculty jump into digital tools even if they feel afraid,” said McMillan.

According to McMillan, WinkyFace is currently on hiatus, but they use it a little bit in class, both to goof around and to teach with.

In addition to their YouTube class, McMillan and Wotanis have also worked on a publication together called, “Performing Gender on YouTube: How Jenna Marbles Negotiates a Hostile Online Environment” which was published in Feminist Media Studies in late 2014.

Jenna Marbles is one of McMillan’s favorite video bloggers, and one of YouTube’s biggest stars.

McMillan said she is interested in the discussion of online spaces and whether everyone has an equal opportunity to participate or whether “online spaces play out the same kind of inequities and injustices that we see in real world context.”

“We are specifically interested in sexism online and the fact that the same percentage of women were top YouTube stars as we’re represented in CEOs, in Fortune 500 companies, as we’re represented in Congress…basically from 16 to 20 percent is the most you see of women in any kind of industry across the board in terms of the upper ranks – even upper administration for education, even though education is considered a more female world,” said McMillan.

In their publication, they studied this trend. After comparing 100 comments on Jenna Marbles and Ryan Higa’s top 10 videos, they found that “Jenna Marbles had a much harsher reception on YouTube than Ryan Higa, even though she is the most popular YouTuber in some points.”

They then asked what is it about her videos that are “strong in the face of this harsher reception and we found that she does a lot of performance of gender, both masculine and feminine.”

With her extensive research of YouTube and current trends, her own accomplishments with YouTube, and her ability to connect well with her students, McMillan is a step ahead of the game – ready to prepare herself and her students for success and growth in this digital world we live in.

Contact the writer: [email protected]