Faculty Spotlight on Senior Lecturer in English Mahli Mechenbier

Some educators struggle with bridging the gap between theory and application, so students get bored, lose interest, and tune out. Not so in Mahli Mechenbier's classes.

This Senior Lecturer in English at the Regional Academic Center in Twinsburg describes her teaching style as “immersive — not hypothetical.” It’s also dynamic. Students soon discover that they can apply their English skills to every other class and workplace. Some even find themselves attending conferences or becoming published co-writers with their instructor.
     
Mechenbier stirs curiosity and creativity within her students, mentoring them beyond the classroom to explore new ventures and to reach new heights. For instance, her former undergraduate research assistant Marcy Bodnar took "Intro to Technical Writing" and "Business & Professional Writing" with Mechenbier at the Regional Academic Center in 2016. Now she is a joint-author with Mechenbier on the article, “A Report on a U.S.-Based National Survey of Students in Online Writing Courses." 

Jordan Canzonetta was another undergraduate student who took the same courses in 2010 and 2011 and later wrote her Honors Thesis with Mechenbier. Fast forward to May 2019, Canzonetta is graduating with her Ph.D. from Syracuse University with a degree focusing on online plagiarism detection and technical writing. She has already accepted a tenure-track position as a professor at Lewis University in Chicago.

Mechenbier says, “Both have integrated writing into their career choices.  I consider students my projects, which may sound odd. Those ‘projects' — because they are people — remind me that the Kent State Geauga and Regional Academic Center students who have a plan, collaborate with their mentors, and maximize learning and research experiences are successful outside of the classroom and leave to make an impact in their disciplines. As faculty, we are in the distinctive position to influence how our graduates transform into active members of the workforce and community.”
 
True to her teaching philosophy, Mechenbier recruits promising students to attend professional conferences with her. “I’m more, ‘let’s go to that conference’ rather than ‘well, how would you do if you attended that conference?’” she relates.

Mary Elliott, a former Kent State Geauga College Credit Plus student who is now a Technical Writing minor at the Kent Campus, traveled with Mechenbier to Houston in 2016 and Pittsburgh in 2019 to attend the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) conference. CCCC is the world's largest professional organization for researching and teaching composition, from writing to new media.

Mechenbier says, “Many of our undergraduate students have not been given the opportunity to see the workplace as big-picture and therefore lack the experience to envision themselves working in X-field after they graduate. National conferences such as CCCC allow students to practice networking with experts in the field and explore what career opportunities are available to them. The English major is flexible.”  

She adds, “Because I am also a non-stop talker, students who travel with me don’t just sit and watch—they move quickly and integrate with other participants. I tell students, you can talk to me when we’re back in Ohio...so go over there and meet that interesting person and find out how she uses English in her career.” 

Mechenbier brings more to the classroom than most students expect, especially in required courses such as College Writing I and II. Mechenbier admits, “Those students —as well as those in developmental English — often do not want to be in those classes. Engagement in that sense means that the instructor should be aware of her audience and integrate teaching tools and course activities to ensure students realize that ‘required classes’ can still benefit them. College Writing courses are the foundation for all other college classes. History, Sociology, Nursing, Psychology and Microbiology all require writing and critical thinking, which are the core of College Writing.“ 

In the same way, the diverse faculty at the Regional Academic Center appreciate how each course of study strengthens the other, so they build off each other’s efforts. Mechehenbier says, “Because the full-time faculty are so interdisciplinary, I appreciate being able to hear Professor Kratky assist my students with math equations; I enjoy walking down the office hallway and seeing my students in Dr. Landingham’s office, asking questions about business management, because there is both content and practical (application) overlap in all of our courses, regardless of whether or not students realize how the subjects connect.  Additionally, the ease of being able to walk downstairs and ask Vania Alvarez-Minah or Mary Lynn Delfino a question about a student’s progress is one of Kent State Geauga and Regional Academic Center's strengths:  Everyone collaborates with each other.“