Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Student News

News from the College of Arts & Sciences (CAS)

Dr.Randy Brooks, Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences

Performance Learning in the College of Arts & Sciences

The College of Arts & Sciences offers seven academic programs fully embracing performance learning. These programs are characterized by (1) doing work in the discipline with a professional public performance required of all students before graduation; (2) extra-curricular academic engagement and professional growth experiences beyond the classroom, (3) opportunities for interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary studies, and (4) a strong commitment to learning experiences for majors and students in other academic programs.


Natural Science students and faculty engage in research—in the laboratory, in extensive field studies, and through professional internships. Faculty and students share their new knowledge with the science community through poster exhibits, conference presentations, co-authored publications, and community outreach events.

Four Students Presented at Sigma Zeta National Conference

Millikin University undergraduates were commended for their research efforts at the 2014 Sigma Zeta National Convention held March 27-29 at Bethel University in Saint Paul, Minnesota. A national undergraduate honor society, Sigma Zeta encourages and fosters scholarly activity and recognizes academic scholarship in the natural and computer sciences and mathematics. The purpose of the convention was to allow students from a variety of institutions an outlet to exchange research and ideas. “The students that participated in the Sigma Zeta National Convention presented excellent examples of the Performance Learning experience that takes place in the sciences at Millikin University,” said Dr. Paris Barnes, Associate Professor of Chemistry. “All four works were praised by professors from other institutions who reviewed them.” Dr. Barnes added, “Ashley, Brian,Chelsea, and Lindsey did excellent jobs communicating with other scientists about their research at the convention. Their engagement in Performance Learning is another example of the great things our students do at Millikin University.”

Lindsay Baxter, a senior biology major from Rockton, Ill., received the Sigma Zeta Award for Best Overall Oral Presentation. Baxter presented her research on hollow gold nanoparticle-liposome-cantharidin composites and their effects on human breast cancer cells. Lindsey’s results showed that canthardin solutions with concentrations between 1 and 100 micro molars killed three different breast cancer cell lines effectively, but cantharidin trapped in liposomes did not cause significant cell apoptosis. “This was my first research oral presentation and I was thankful to have been able to give it in such a welcoming and friendly environment,” said Baxter. “Winning the award for Best Oral Presentation was extremely exciting and was a wonderful surprise. The recognition has given me added confidence to present my research to audiences for future events.”

Chelsea Hadsall, a senior applied mathematics major from Macomb, Ill., earned a 2014 Sigma Zeta Research Award for her research on the synthesis and analysis of high nitrogen content organic compounds that could be used to replace the black powder traditionally used in fireworks. Hadsall’s results showed that known para-disubstituted tetrazines containing more nitrogen than carbon could be viable black powder replacements. 

Brian Kane, a senior chemistry major from Chatham, Ill., presented his work on the thermal and electrolytic stability of hollow gold nanoshells. Brian’s research showed that hollow gold nanoshells were prone to melting at human physiological temperature within one day. Kane also showed the series of color changes associated with the collapse of the hollow gold nanoshells over a 26-hour period. 

Ashley Flores, a junior chemistry major from Round Lake, Ill., gave a poster presentation outlining her collaborative work on octahedral tilting distortions in tellurium double perovskites. Flores,along with additional Millikin students, attempted to synthesize approximately 30 different compounds containing tellurium. Flores’ presentation compared the crystal chemistry of six different compounds.  “Sigma Zeta was the first time that I ever presented my research,” said Flores. “I realized how much I truly knew about my subject and I was glad that I was able to present. The convention was a great experience and Ihope to continue to present my research in the future.”

Five Students Present at the North Central District Convention of Beta Beta Beta

Dr. Travis Wilcoxen, Assistant Professor of Biology, recently had five undergraduate research students under his mentorship present their research projects at the North Central District Convention of Beta Beta Beta, a Biology National Honor Society. One student received the second place poster award, another the third place award, and a third won the honorable mention. Travis provided a bird banding demonstration for the Springfield Audubon Society at the Illinois Raptor Center on April 19, 2014. Travis also gave a presentation about the health of wild birds to Will County Audubon Society in April. This presentation featured a summary of a long-term study that he and Dr. David Horn have been conducting since April 2011.

Double Major in Mathematics & Spanish Receives Prestigious Goldwater Award

Dr. Wilcoxen presented a 2014 Barry M.  Goldwater Foundation for Excellence inScience, Mathematics, and Education Honorable Mention to Millikin biology student, Hailee Peck. This is a very prestigious, highly‑competitive national scholarship and The Goldwater Foundation places equal value in terms of student quality and scientific merit on each Honorable Mention and full scholarship winners, the only difference is that scholarship money is given to those receiving the full award. Only 300 students nationwide are awarded full scholarship and only about 30 more are awarded Honorable Mention. This truly is a remarkable accomplishment for Hailee and her success should be fully celebrated. 

Dennis School Partnership Learning Experiences in Biology

On Tuesday, April 15, 2014 the Biology department hosted 45 third and fourth graders, working through 5 different stations of exercises with 16 biology students and one nursing student leading them. Our students were fantastic guiding the activities, and the Dennis School students were amazed at the fast movement of sensitive plants when touched, found the baby plant inside a bean seed, dissected a flower and examined its pollen, taped down the floral parts into their journals, used nail polish to make an epidermal peel to examine stomatal openings on the tops and bottoms of leaves, measured photosynthetic rates of a prayer plant, toured the greenhouse and potted up their own jade hobbit plants to take home, and toured the museum admiring the many colors organisms use.

Dr. Travis Wilcoxen, Assistant Professor of Biology, recently had three undergraduate research students under his mentorship receive Beta Beta Beta, a Biology National Honor Society, research grants. Travis also served as an ad hoc reviewer for a National Science Foundation CAREER Grant Proposal submitted to the Integrative Organismal Systems cluster. Travis gave presentations about the health of wild birds to each the Decatur Audubon Society in November and the Springfield Audubon Society in December. Travis gave an oral presentation of his research that was completed in collaboration with Dr. David Horn and Millikin students (6 of which were co-authors on the talk) at the January 2014 annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) in Austin, TX. While at that conference, Travis served as a Best Student Poster Judge for the Division of Comparative Endocrinology and as a Session Chair for a session entitled 'Immunology'. In addition, Travis was nominated by other SICB members as a candidate for the office of Secretary of the newly formed Division of Ecoimmunology and Disease Ecology of SICB. Finally, Travis participated in the Eagle Days activities at Starved Rock State Park in late January, setting visual displays and discussing the Ornithological Research conducted at Millikin University in collaboration with Dr. David Horn and many students.

In Fall 2013, Dr. Jennifer Schroeder, Assistant Professor of Biology, presented research with Millikin students at two conferences. In October, Dr. Schroeder attended the Illinois Symposium on Reproductive Science with junior Travis Mansur. At the conference, held in Makanda, IL, Travis presented his research entitled "Examination of Gold Nanoparticles and Cantharidin as Potential Treatments for Breast Cancer". In November, Dr. Schroeder attended the North American Society for Environmental Toxicolgy and Chemistry conference in Nashville, TN. There, she presented three posters encompassing recent research from her lab. "Effects of hypoxia onembryonic development in Rana pipiens" included research by recent Spring 2013 graduate Jianna Fernandez. This poster had won a travel award for Jianna at a conference in May 2013. "Identification of AtrazineContamination in Macon County, Illinois" included research from Spring 2013 graduate Samantha Wassenhove and SURF research from summer of 2013 completed by Travis Mansur. Additionally, Dr. Schroeder presented initial findings from funding provided toher by the endowed Howard L. Gravett Chair position in Biology in a poster entitled "Comparisonof atrazine and chlorpyrifos on wild local and commercially available frogspecies".

In November, alumnus Justin Brohard began an online "No-Shave November" campaign to raise funds for cancer research. By the end of 2013, he had raised $250 in donations to his cause. This money was then used to create the "Brohard Cancer Research Fund", which was in turn donated to Millikin in January to be used by Dr. Jennifer Schroeder to help offset the cost of Biology undergraduate research on cancer. In Spring 2014, the funding was used for Shelly Mansfield's research on examining the expression of GPR30 in breast cancer cells after they have been exposed to pesticides used in localcrop production.

Dr. Judy Parrish, Professor of Biology, taught Alaskan Ecology inJuly – in Alaska, with four Millikin students. They studied the plant and animal communities of boreal forest and alpine tundra in the Matanuska Valley and Denali National Park, hiked on and studied glaciers and succession after they recede, observed marine life of Kenai Fjords National Park , hiked in coastal rain forests that reminded everyone of the Ewok forests, camped, carried out independent projects, and fished. Students examined the composition of plankton near the shore and in central Resurrection Bay, compared photosynthetic rates of fireweed leaves of different positions on the stem, and measured anthocyanin content at different positions and insect damage levels.

Dr. Parrish and three former biology students, Laura Zimmerman, Natalie Mentzer Porter, and Jessica Forrest Riney, recently published the results of their two year project as undergrads at Millikin on “The effects ofherbicide treatment, life history stage, and application date on cut and uncut teasel, Dipsacus laciniatus (Dipsacacae)” in the June 2013 volume of the Open Journal of Natural Resources. The most recent published volume of Transactions of the Illinois State Academy of Sciences includes a research article by Dr. Judy Parrish, professor of biology, and 2012 graduate Rachel Damos, entitled The effects of the herbicides aminopyralid and glyphosate on growth and survival of Dipsacus laciniatus (Dipsacaceae) rosettes with different taproot diameters” – aka “How to kill the Al Capone of invasive plants”.



Faculty and students in these programs develop advanced mathematical modeling abilities in a variety of applied math fields including actuarial science, physics or math education. The mathematics department hosts an undergraduate math conference each year, and the physics program hosts numerous science and astronomy outreach programs to schools and the community.

John Spaw '16, Mathematics major, was accepted into the interns portion of the PURE mathematics summer research program. He will spend five weeks learning about and researching factorization theory, an extremely important area of abstract algebra. Aside from the mathematics, John gets an all-expense-paid trip to Hawaii for the five weeks, and gets a nice stipend to boot! If you want, you can read more about this program at this website: <>.

Hailee Peck '15, Mathematics major, for two weeks will be participating in the Women and Mathematics program that is being held at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University.  According to the program's website,"[t]he program brings together research mathematicians with undergraduate and graduate students on the campus of the Institute for Advanced Study and is designed to address issues of gender imbalance in mathematics. Activities include lectures and seminars on a focused mathematical topic, mentoring, discussions on peer relations, an introduction to career opportunities and a women in sciences seminar." You can read more about this particular program here: <>. A couple of weeks after she finishes this awesome program, Hailee heads off to another research experience. After thoroughly considering the multiple offers she had for summer research (including an offerfrom the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory), Hailee decided to attend the summer mathematics research program at the University of Minnesota. This highly selective, extremely rigorous program lasts for eight weeks and has previously selected students from such places at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, and Carnegie Mellon University. She will be looking at the field of combinatorics and how the subject matter applies to other fields of mathematics. Information about this particular program can be found at: <>.



Students and faculty in this program choose an emphasis on research or social action. The Psychology major prepares students in experimental research methods and invites students to join ongoing research teams, such as the Social Perception Research Project. The Human Services and Sociology majors emphasize service learning and social action, preparing students to become professionals in organizations dedicated to helping people and communities. 



Faculty and students in communication conduct research and practice professional skills in public relations, organizational communication or media production. Communication students practice their professional communication through required internships and campus opportunities such as working for the award-winning Millikin University radiostation, WJMU.


Faculty and students interested in studying international cultures have many opportunities to study abroad through immersion or semester-long opportunities. Students and faculty in History conduct research including field studies or primary texts in their courses and through internships with historical organizations, such as museums.

Millikin History faculty and students presented papers at the Conference on Illinois History in Springfield, Illinois, September 26-27, 2013. John Billimack ("Gierson'sRaid") and Max Couch ("General John A. Logan"), History majors, presented on Friday, September 27. Dr. Dan Monroe moderated the session on Civil War Generals, andDr. Brian Mullgardt attended the conference as faculty sponsor of Kayla Samuelson's presentation and moderated a session on the Progressive Era.


Students and faculty in the writing and publishing program can concentrate on creative writing, professional writing, literature, print journalism or English education. In addition to courses on the art of publishing and web publishing, students in this program join student-run publishing companies including the student newspaper, the Decaturian, the book publishing company, Bronze Man Books, the literary magazine, Collage, or the poetry broadside publishing company, Blue Satellite Press. 

Bronze Man Books, a student-owned and operated press that was established in spring 2006, published an anthology of first-year student essays entitled Millikin’s Premier Writers 2013. The book is comprised of five student essays, with editor introductions and front matter from the Millikin’s Premier Writers coordinators. The selected essays are from the winners of the Millikin’sPremier Writers (MPW) Contest held in spring 2013. This is the inaugural release of the publication as students seek to establish Millikin’s Premier Writers Contest as a tradition at Millikin University. In particular, the program seeks to uphold the Millikin goal of incorporating performance learning as a part of student development.


Students in Political Science or Philosophy engage in ethical reasoning and political action. This program includes students interested in careers in politics or law. Beyond classes on research methods or traditions of argumentation, students learn to apply their abilities through simulations and competitions such as Moot Court, Model Illinois Government and Model United Nations. 

Dr. Robert Money, Professor of Philosophy and Dr. Bobbi Gentry, Assistant Professor of Political Science, took 14 Millikin students to participate as attorneys for a total of seven teams at the 2014 Model Illinois Government Moot Court Competition held March 1st and 2nd.  All seven teams did outstanding work over the course of the first four preliminary rounds. Once the preliminary rounds were completed, Millikin teams continued to excel. Five teams made the quarterfinal round, three made the semi-final round, and two made the final round. The team of Kara Anderson and Alice Dembinski emerged as the competition champions. This is the seventh consecutive year that a Millikin team has been crowned champion. This is a remarkable record of success achieved by the hard work and outstanding performances of our students. Our students worked extremely hard in advance of and during the competition to digest the material and then construct and deliver sophisticated legal arguments. The results speak forthemselves. 

In addition to the impressive team accomplishments, Millikin students swept the individual awards.  Students Joshua Rose and Kolton Ray were co-honored as Most Outstanding Moot Court Attorney.  Student Kara Anderson was honored as Most Outstanding Novice Moot Court Attorney. Student Drake Mellott was honored as runner up for Most Outstanding Novice Moot CourtAttorney. In addition to the students who participated as attorneys, four additional students participated as student justices: James Farris, Miles Grimes, Julia Hesse, and Nora Kocher. Their contributions were outstanding as well.  They demonstrated mastery of the case file and the ability to formulate difficult questions for the attorneys to address—holding their feet to the fire!

In 2013, Dr. Bobbi Gentry, Assistant Professor of Political Science, and Maddison Harner worked to create a poster presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Midwestern Political Science Association Conference. This presentation was a result of the Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship awarded in the Summer of 2012. The presentation entitled “Communicating 9/11: Then and Now” is a comparison of how teachers and administrators addressed September 11th in 2001 and 2011.

Students of Political Science have also been very successful in 2013. Political Science major, Andrew Besalke, was admitted to the competitive American University Washington Program where he worked on the emerging communities internship in DC public schools. Jacqui Rogers earned a place in the New Leadership Illinois where women from across the state compete to be a part of athree day event held in Chicago. Students in New Leadership meet women from around the state and nation, and discuss women’s involvement in politics and public policy. Jacqui Rogers was also admitted into the exclusive Hesselbein Global Academy for Student Leadership and Civic Engagement, where she spent time on leadership and professional training.

Dr. Gentry and student Maddison Harner coauthored and co-presented research at the Midwestern Political Science Conference. Dr. Gentry also presented at the American Political Science Association’s Teaching and Learning Conference held in Long Beach CA. Her work,entitled “Assessing Model Simulations with Third Party Actors,” examined how we can involve a variety of actors in the process of assessment of student performance learning in Political Science.

Millikin University - Decatur, IL
Millikin University - Decatur, IL