Inspired to Inspire
December 22, 2006
Many of the best teachers are inspired by other strong teachers. That’s Sandra Malin Mayfield’s story. Dr. Mayfield, professor of English at the University of Central Oklahoma, grew up in the home of an educator.
“My mother was a teacher and I, from a very early age, believed that is what I would do,” Mayfield said. “My parents supported me and thought it would be a good thing to do.”
She narrowed her teaching field to English while at OBU.
“I chose English, actually, when I got to OBU,” said Mayfield. “I had several really good English teachers there and became interested in literature and teaching of literature. There were excellent teachers that inspired me and I decided to pursue it as my major.”
Mayfield, ’64, has been a member of the UCO faculty since 1985. Prior to that, she worked for six years with the Oklahoma State Department of Education. For three years she worked as an assistant professor of English at OBU, and has also served at the University of Oklahoma and East Texas Baptist University. In addition, she was a consultant in religious education with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. She also was an English and French teacher in the Idabel Public Schools.
Each of her stops has been marked by success. Mayfield earned a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1988 to study John Milton at the University of Arizona. In 1995, she received a grant from UCO and the Presbyterian Health Foundation to tour educational institutions in South Africa. She also earned a UCO grant to participate in The Oxford Roundtable on “Women’s Leadership” at St. Anthony’s College in Oxford, England.
After graduating from OBU, Mayfield earned a master’s degree in religious education from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. In 1970, she earned a master’s degree in English Literature from the University of Oklahoma. She also earned her Ph.D. degree in English Literature from OU in 1980, with a dissertation on the influence of religious writing in the 17th century on Sir Thomas Browne’s Relgio Medici.
She’s widely published on a range of topics, including African-American feminist literary criticism, Shakespeare, and education issues.
Mayfield has researched and made presentations on Milton, Donne, Shakespeare, Christianity and literature, and, most recently, women and terrorism.
While at UCO, Mayfield has served as the president of the UCO Chapter of the American Association of University Women, and the UCO Chapter of American Association of University Professors. She has sponsored the Chi Gamma Chapter of Sigma Tau Delta International, among many other roles.
While she enjoys the activity, research and travel, her love is the classroom.
“We’re so busy here dealing with all the challenges that we have, but I really enjoy introducing students to great works of literature,” Mayfield said. “It makes me happy when they catch on to what literature is all about. I really value the relationships I have with the students. Some of the very best relationships have been on-going after they graduate. I feel like I have touched their lives in some way.”
While she enjoys teaching the students majoring in literature, Mayfield also takes a delight in the students who are learning to communicate.
“I enjoy teaching students from all of the different disciplines. I like the challenge of getting the students into writing,” she said. “Writing and communication are some of the most important tools you can have.”
Mayfield’s desire to excel in teaching was nurtured by OBU faculty and administrators.
“Some of the most wonderful years of my life came at OBU,” said Mayfield. “I still remember Ka-rip. Katherine Rader was my mentor there. I worked for her as a secretary for three years and had her for several classes. I thought she was the absolute best teacher I ever had.”
Mayfield also credited Dr. Rowena Strickland and Dr. Gregory Pritchard for shaping her education and career. She also admired OBU’s presidents during her time.
“I admired both Dr. Raley and his wife,” said Mayfield. “They had such a great vision for OBU, which I just got caught up in. James Ralph Scales inspired me so very much. I think he impressed on me that religious belief and education went hand-in-hand.”
Armed with that inspiration, Dr. Mayfield is inspiring others with the potential for becoming good educators.