June 24, 2022 at 11:00am
Kendall Trump '13

Faculty Profile: Nancy Curtin

Across Millikin University’s campus, one of the widely known and loved professors is undoubtedly Dr. Nancy Curtin, professor and chair of the Communication Department. Her positive influence and impactful courses were honored during the 2022 Honors Convocation event, held on April 21 in Kirkland Fine Arts Center when she received both the coveted Dr. Ralph A. Czerwinski Teaching Excellence Award and the Dr. Deborah L. Slayton Campus Leadership Award.

The announcements from both awards received enthusiastic applause from the audience of Curtin’s students, colleagues, Millikin family and friends. While not one for acclaim, Curtin said she was humbled and grateful for the reception, and that seeing the materials submitted by those who nominated her was better than any award. “It wasn’t just one person who nominated me, but a number of people. That widespread support and camaraderie is what it’s all about. That, to me, is heartwarming and feeds my soul,” Curtin remarked.

Curtin has been teaching and rising through the ranks at Millikin University for more than 25 years, having started in 1997 as a part-time faculty member as she finished her Ph.D. program and raised her children. In 2007, she began teaching full-time and by 2013, she became the chair of the Communication Department, became an associate professor, and was granted tenure. In 2021, Curtin achieved the title of full professor. 

Dr. Nancy Curtin

Primarily, Curtin teaches topics in communication, such as organizational communication, gender communication, and more recently, intercultural communication. Throughout her career at Millikin, some of her favorite experiences have been collaborations with her colleagues, including co-writing a textbook for a business conversations class. As someone who is always learning, she is passionate about the learning environment. “The next best thing to being a student when you’re always learning is being a professor.” 

As a specialist in communication, Curtin has seen the scope of communication, and with it, the important communication skills to teach, change significantly throughout her career. In recent years, Curtin mentioned that she has taught students about small talk. “There is something to be said about being able to strike up a conversation and engaging in small talk,” she said, describing how good conversation skills and being present with another person can take students a long way in their futures. 

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a massive shift in how communication took place and how it was viewed, according to Curtin. “I think the pandemic was pivotal in getting the younger generation to pause and realize that we took it to the nth degree in digital and virtual communication.” She said some of her students mentioned missing in-person classes in just the first few days of virtual learning. That validated need for and importance of face-to-face communication is something Curtin believes has been missing in recent years, and she is grateful to be able to connect with her students face-to-face. “People saw the value of face-to-face communication, and if nothing else, I’ll look at that as the bright side of things.”

Dr. Nancy Curtin working with a student

Curtin brings her passion to every student she teaches and advises at Millikin, striving to help students discover and achieve their full potential. She believes that what Millikin does best is exactly that; helping students find their potential and shine. “Wherever they come in, whether they’re an honors student or maybe a student who needs a little extra help, getting them to realize their potential is what I’m especially proud of,” she said. 

Working with students and getting to know them is part of what Curtin loves most about coming to work at Millikin every day. She enjoys knowing and helping her students beyond the classroom, often telling prospective students, “If you want to be a number and fade into the background, do not come here. Because we get to know you.”

It is through this personalized approach to teaching that Curtin makes the biggest impact on her students. By designing her lessons to be applicable and explaining why they will need to know things in the future, she hopes her students take more from her classes than simply learning for the sake of learning.

"I want them to develop their skills and make their mistakes here, so that when they go out in the world, they shine." 

In her endeavor to help her students reach their potential and to ensure they are recognized, Curtin endowed an award in the Communication Department. The Dr. Nancy J. Curtin Communication Award is intended to recognize communication students who have realized their potential over the course of their Millikin career through self-improvement, leadership and Performance Learning experiences. The award, which was given out for the first time in 2022, was presented to Nathaniel Moore III.  “I want to leave my mark at Millikin and be remembered as someone who cared for her students and added value to their lives,” Curtin concluded. 

At the end of the Spring 2022 academic term, Curtin was appointed as interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences for the 2022-2023 academic year, following the retirement of Dr. Randy Brooks.