Outside room 320B in Hearnes Hall, there is a posted verse by Dr. Seuss whimsically declaring what lies behind the office door.

“I’m happy to be here, I am. I am. I’m the happiest slave of The Firm, I am.”

Along with Mardi Gras beads, other quirky sayings and a Tomy Big Loader track that he insists on exhibiting to every visitor, there is Dr. Michael Howarth. Imaginative, eccentric and a bit of a romantic, the assistant professor of English is a well-received tonic in the monotony of English text.

“We all have our own inner child,” he said. “I’m not afraid to let mine out of the bottle and run around.”

At 31 years old, this ability to be energetic and creative is projected through a passion of creative writing that began in his youth. Growing up in Cape Cod, Mass., Howarth was always interested in fairytales and knew he wanted to someday be involved in the literary arts. He advises his students to go for their ambitions as well.

“Don’t let anyone else tell you what you can and can’t do,” Howarth said. “Einstein, himself, was kicked out of school. Know what you want, and go for it.”

Howarth definitely went for it. His curiosity compelled him to complete a doctorate in children’s literature, a master of fine arts degree in creative writing, a bachelor’s degree in English and five separate minors in literature and film-related studies.

His academic inclinations also led him to write many awarded publications, a novel called Foul Weather Ninjas and a dissertation that he said may become a lifelong project.

“Anyone who writes a dissertation deserves a large beer.”

He paused, smiled, and continued “Chips and salsa,” and after another pause he sarcastically added, “and a trip to Tahiti.”

He hasn’t yet made it to Tahiti, but has lived nearly everywhere from London to Alaska. This August, Howarth was drawn to the University by the gregarious faculty and an opening in children’s literature. After just one month, he now calls Joplin home.

“I love that you have four seasons,” he said. “Love seeing the leaves falling off the trees. Psychologically that’s important: a mental Feng Shui.”

The comfort of our seasons, plus the “friendly people and the smaller amount of traffic” seem to be settling Howarth in quite well.

He speaks with his new students and colleagues with a straightforward ease not found in many instructors and learns something new from each class.

“I’m interested in their perception of the world and what they personally gain from the literature.”

He believes his students should be allowed to fault occasionally in their work.

“Most of the things in life you learn by mistakes,” he said. “It’s all about making the wrong move, at the right time.”