By Amanda Clark
In July, Michelle Hays became the new Fine Arts Department Chair at TWU. She was brought here by her love for teaching, passion for art, and love for what TWU stands for.
Hays began her journey into art by receiving her undergraduate education at the University of California-Irvine, then transferred to Point Loma Nazarene University, where she finished her undergraduate education and received a Bachelor’s in Studio Art. Her transfer was due to her desire for a more personal education experience, which later became one of the reasons she was attracted to the TWU Fine Arts Program.
Following her undergraduate years, she went into teaching middle school and high school art. She owned her own design business and worked for two other design firms.
In 1999, Hays was asked to teach for a semester at her college Alma Mater. She was then working full-time both at a design firm, and teaching at the college level.
It was at this point in her life that she realized the real passion she had for teaching college level students.
Hays taught at her Alma Mater for a while and a few junior colleges, until she was encouraged to go back to school. She had been out of college for 10 years and said she was scared but ended up receiving her M.F.A. in Graphic Design from Rhode Island School of Design.
A year later she was working at Texas State University where she stayed for seven years. In her last two years, she was the program director for communication design. The program at Texas State continued to grow, but she desired to return to a more personal teaching style, and so began looking for a new job.
When Hays began her job search, she looked for a smaller school where she could know her students and faculty well. The accomplishments of faculty at TWU were very attractive, but most of all what attracted her to TWU was its mission statement, which focused on the combination of education with leadership and service.
Her heart for service stems from her personal upbringing. Hays said she comes from a long line of service-oriented people, and she herself is an avid supporter of social justice. She is a foster parent, and loves working with kids and Habitat for Humanity. She completed a project while at Texas State that documented poverty in different parts of the world. She hopes to integrate service-oriented learning into the art program while here at TWU.
Along side her degrees, many job titles and new position, Hays has also been published both nationally and internationally. She loves art, but education in addition to art, is most important to her. She aspires to become a full-time professor while here at TWU.
Her goals and aspirations for the art program at TWU are to serve the faculty as an educator and advocate, and to make TWU known for its art education. “TWU has a distinct group of people that don’t need to be under UNT or anyone else’s shadow,” she explained. She said she is already very proud of the art program and hopes to continue to improve it in her new position.
She looks back at the phone call she received from her Alma Mater as a pivotal turning point in her life: it was when she realized what she really loved to do, and she would not be here at TWU today without realizing her true passions.