Since she became first lady, Michelle Obama has been known for her interest in the three F's: family, food and fashion.

But Monday, she will dip her toe into policy-related stuff, too. FLOTUS is being dispatched to the Gulf of Mexico to meet with officials and community leaders in Panama City Beach, Fla., leaving some to wonder if this is a pivotal turning point, or just a single issue on which the first lady can chime in.

Ohio University history professor Katherine Jellison, who specializes in U.S. women's history, said she thinks for now, the oil spill is something safe for the first lady to speak about, but that could change.

"I think maybe if there is a second Obama term and Malia and Sasha are older, maybe she will start being more of a political player," Jellison said.

Going into the job, Jellison said she expected Obama to be like a Betty Ford, who openly opined about the issues of the day. Instead, Obama has been more like a Jackie Kennedy, "Playing first mommy and first fashion plate," Jellison explained.

And in comparing Obama with the two most recent first ladies, Laura Bush (who was popular because she was noncontroversial) and Hillary Clinton (who tackled policy and became controversial) Michelle Obama is walking right down the middle, Jellison said.

"Probably the way that Michelle Obama is playing her role as first lady is inevitable, after the backlash against Hillary, and then Laura Bush going to the other extreme," Jellison said.

Then again, depending on how things go in the Gulf, perhaps Michelle Obama will become more Hillary Clintonlike and less like Laura Bush.

"She is such a talented, well educated, energetic person, I'm sure part of her wants to be much more involved in the big items on her husband's political agenda," Jellison said.