Black History Month Extended: Celebrating the Contributions of Five Impactful TAMUC Professors

Black History Month Series Part 3: Honoring and Recognizing Impactful Black Figures in the Lion Family

As the echoes of Black History Month fade, the legacy of trailblazers like Dr. David Talbot continue to inspire forthcoming generations of brilliant professors at Texas A&M University-Commerce and beyond. To round out the Black History Month series, consider five stand-out TAMUC faculty members who touch students' lives and excel in their fields.

1. Julia Warren Ballenger, Ph.D.

Regents Professor, Doctoral Program Coordinator and Educational Leadership Scholar, 2012-present

headshot of Dr. Julia Ballenger
Dr. Julia Warren Ballenger | Texas A&M University-Commerce Office of Marketing and Communications

Dr. Julia Ballenger has been an educator for over 40 years in both public and private education. She has held several positions, from teacher to principal, counselor and more. Currently, she teaches graduate students in the Educational Leadership program at A&M-Commerce. Many of her classes focus specifically on dissertation writing and research.

“I am a qualitative researcher, and I enjoy assisting doctoral students in finding the appropriate research design for their study,” Ballenger explained.

Outside of teaching, Ballenger's research interests include leadership for social justice, democracy, school improvement, intercultural competency, and mentoring female administrators in higher education. Her most recent co-authored book is the only book in Texas that includes preparation content for the TExES Principal Exam (268) and Performance Assessment (368).

Ballenger was also the lead editor for the book “Women of Color in STEM: Navigating the Workforce.” In total, she has co-edited ten books and published over 50 articles and book chapters.

In 2021, Ballenger was named an International Council of Professors of Educational Leadership Living Legend, which recognizes individuals who make significant contributions to the field of educational administration. She was also granted the title of Regents Professor, the highest award in The Texas A&M University System. Other awards include the Texas Association of Black Personnel in Higher Education Excellence in Teaching (2019) and the Dr. Talbot Outstanding Professor of the Year award (2016). These are only a few of the over 20 awards and honors Ballenger has received for her work and research.

Ballenger said her sister and her mother serve as her role models and inspiration.

“My sister retired as the dean of the math and technology department at Tarrant County Community College, and my mother was my cheerleader,” she said.

2. Willie Edwards, Ph.D.

Professor and Department Head of Sociology and Criminal Justice, 1990-present

headshot of Dr. Willie Edwards
Dr. Willie Edwards | Texas A&M University-Commerce Office of Marketing and Communications

Dr. Willie Edwards' teaching and research focuses include criminology and sociology.

“I became interested in these two fields in high school,” he said. “I wanted to understand human behavior, especially as it related to criminal activity.”

Edwards' research interests often lead him to explore race relations in both criminology and higher education. He published an article titled, “What Are They Saying? Black Faculty at Predominantly White Institutions of Higher Education” in 2017 and is currently studying the attitudes of college students toward the police and the ways the Black Lives Matter movement impacts citizens' views on policing.

Edwards' favorite course to teach is Crime and Criminology (CJ 330), which explores why people commit crimes. He explained, “It is my favorite course because the explanations for crime are more complex than the average person thinks.”

Edwards has written over 20 publications, presented at numerous conferences, and received several awards, including the Service Honor Award from the Texas Association of Black Personnel in Higher Education in 2020. But even with all his education and experience, he insists there is always something more to learn.

“I am open-minded and willing to entertain new and challenging ideas,” he said. “I believe in having standards, but I also believe in opening [my]self to new adventures.”

3. Joyce Miller, Ph.D.

Professor and Program Coordinator of Secondary Education in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, 1976-present

headshot of Dr. Joyce Miller
Dr. Joyce Miller | Texas A&M University-Commerce Office of Marketing and Communications

Dr. Joyce Miller’s teaching and research interests center on gifted education curriculum and instruction. She often focuses her research on gifted Black students. She was specifically inspired to explore this when she was hired to work at A&M-Commerce in 1976.

“My research interests focused on factors that impact teacher effectiveness, but because gifted education was coming to the forefront in Texas, and educators needed training in gifted education, there was a need to provide courses and professional development in gifted and talented education,” she explained.

She became involved in developing a series of conferences on gifted education, which drew hundreds of teachers to A&M-Commerce from all over the U.S.

In 1978, Miller received a grant for a high school academic enrichment program for gifted and talented students. Principals from the surrounding areas handpicked students who came to the Commerce campus, lived in dorms, and took classes taught by college professors and graduate students. When funding for the program ended, university faculty continued holding Saturday seminars for high school students at the Mesquite Metroplex Center.

Over the decades, Miller has published approximately 30 articles on teaching. She has received numerous grants and developed several programs for gifted education teachers and students. Thanks to her efforts, hundreds of educators, college professors and leaders in gifted education across the state have received gifted education training at A&M-Commerce.

Miller is also very involved with organizations and groups that support college and high school students. On campus, she served as an advisor for the A&M-Commerce student chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) for six years. At Garland High School, she was the youth advisor for the NAACP Garland Youth Council, the Garland Afro-Academic Cultural, Technological, Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO), and serves as the Texas ACT-SO chair.

4. Chuck Arize, Ph.D.

Regents Professor in the Department of Management and Economics, 1987-present

Chuck Arize Headshot.
Dr. Chuck Arize | Texas A&M University-Commerce Office of Marketing and Communications

Dr. Chuck Arize has always aspired towards the biggest goals: “[I] desire to be number one in my field,” he plainly stated. While that might seem like a lofty goal, Arize has steadily begun to achieve it.

He teaches business statistics and micro and macroeconomics. His research interests include international trade and finance, developing economies, and monetary economics. He has published approximately 300 peer-reviewed papers in leading economic journals such as “The Journal of Econometrics,” “Financial Review,” and “Journal of Empirical Finance.” When discussing his research and publications, Arize beams with pride.

“I am one of three scholars in Texas who have published in the leading journal ‘The Journal of Business and Economic Statistics of the American Statistical Association,'” he proudly stated.

Within his field, Arize is a respected authority on the effects of exchange-rate volatility on trade flows. Major economic organizations such as the World Bank Publication and Working Papers, the European University Institute, and the Center for Economic Research on Africa have cited his work. In 2000, Arize was named one of the top 100 economists worldwide by the Université de Bruxelles, Belgium. He received this award due to the large number of articles he authored, as listed in the ECONLit database of the American Economic Association.

Arize continues to climb his way to the top, and his numerous recognitions and awards stand as proof of his hard work and research. He was awarded the title of Regents Professor by the A&M System in 2000. He also received the Faculty Eminent Scholar Award, as well as recognition from the MLK Hall of Fame and commendations from the Texas Legislature. In 2020, the International Engineering and Technology Institute named him a “Distinguished Fellow” for his interdisciplinary research. Even more recently, he ranked number 15 among the Top 200 Black Academic Economists in the United States by the Review of Black Political Economy.

For all his hard work and research, Arize still makes time for students on campus. He is among the founders of the African Students Association (ASA) on campus and has been an advisor for the organization for over 20 years. He also strives to support students financially through scholarships and endowments.

“Since 1994, I have facilitated scholarships and excellence awards to over 300 students in the College of Business,” Arize explained. “I established several endowed scholarships in honor of five professors; these endowments are usually about $10,000, and I then contributed $1000 each to several endowments. The financing used to accomplish this comes from the sales of my textbook ‘Statistics Class Note.'”

Arize is careful to remember and thank those who have helped and supported his dream of reaching number one in his field.

“I would not have achieved anything without the steadfast assistance of Dr. Keith McFarland, Dr. Trezzie Pressley, Dr. Ed Manton and Dr. Don English,” he said.

5. David Brown, Ph.D.

Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, 1976-present

Professional headshot for David Brown, Ph.D.
Dr. David Brown | Texas A&M University-Commerce Office of Marketing and Communications

Dr. David Brown’s teaching and research are focused on early childhood education. “I have a strong interest in developing and designing quality programs for young children and their families,” he explained.

Brown has over 50 years of teaching experience in public and college classrooms. Currently, he teaches in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at A&M-Commerce. He has published over 25 articles, presented at numerous conferences and received several grants. He has also received many awards for his work, including the Faculty Eminent Scholar Award, the Texas Association for the Education of Young Children’s Teacher of the Year Award, and the William L. Mayo Professorship Award.

Brown also works on legislation and policies for early childhood education. Recently, he has worked with the Texas Education Agency on the design and development of the new EC-3 certification program.

“This new program will allow preservice teachers to receive specialized training in working with young children, ages 3 through 8,” he explained. “I’ve been able to work on the design of standards for this new program.”

Carrying the Torch

True to Talbot's legacy, these five professors bring academic excellence to A&M-Commerce. Additionally, they demonstrate true care for the student body they serve. While they are not the university's only brilliant and impactful professors, they truly stand out as prime examples of faculty who contribute passion, curiosity and expertise to the university's rich learning environment.

(Featured Image: © Mizanur | Adobe Stock)