Excellence in Teaching Award recipient for 2009, Dr. Brian S. Miller, hails from Augusta, Arkansas. He earned his BA in history, political science and psychology from a sister institution, Ouachita Baptist University in Arkansas. From there Dr. Miller went to the University of Arkansas to earn his MA in history. His PhD in Southern U.S. history was earned at the University of Mississippi. He believes that God has opened many doors of opportunity for him; in fact, the very day he was hired at CSU, his PhD was approved in Oxford, Miss.
Coming from Arkansas, Dr. Millers dissertation topic centered around former President William Jefferson Clinton and his election, loss of an election, and re-election to position of Governor of Arkansas in the early 1980s. Most of the courses Dr. Miller teaches at CSU are in the area of U S. history and, occasionally, Latin American history. Prior to coming to CSU, Miller taught online history courses for the University of Mississippi.
Miller states that his coming to CSU was the result of much prayer and faith. He says, I asked God to direct me to the place He had planned for me, and in a variety of ways He made it clear that CSU was that place. Dr. Miller had wanted to teach at a smaller, faith-based liberal arts college because of the positive experiences he enjoyed at Ouachita Baptist University. He feels that working with fellow Christians who are also fellow educators makes for a fantastic career.
To Dr. Miller, teaching is a way of life. He says, I try to convey to the students my love and interest for history not only by what I say, but also by how I say it. Further he tries to show students that he does indeed care about them as individuals. He strives to build in a deliberate encouragement (based in faith) into all dealings with students who are, to him, his kids. Humor and animation are tools that Dr. Miller uses to help students see the proverbial light. Some of his lower level classes are large and present a challenge in keeping the momentum of the class. But classes of this size give Miller a chance to meet more students and to relate with them pleasantly outside of class.
An example of his humor is shown in his response to the question, What do you think is most notable about your teaching that contributed to your being recognized? His response was The fact that I give my students chocolate at the final exam. Other than that, I have no idea! This is a modest statement considering the large group of students who search for his courses because they are interesting, uplifting and informative. Miller coaches other faculty to think about ones classroom presence. He encourages faculty to project confidence and knowledge; to be effective communicators, and to project enthusiasm in a very personal interest in the class subject matter. Miller mentions that few college professors have much training in education per se, except education professors. He says, they just tell you to get in the classroom and teach. Therefore one must, according to Miller, have a calling to be an excellent teacher.
Dr. Miller is quick to give credit to professors who have served as role models in his life. Dr. Randall Wight at OBU and Dr. John Neff at Ole Miss were both knowledgeable and had the ability to give to students an interest in their subject that lasted longer than a class session. Miller also fondly remembers the example of the late Dr. Win Jordan, a true scholar and gentleman, who had an exceptionally giving heart for students. Dr. Miller also appreciates the opportunity to work with our own Dr. John Kuykendall, who Miller considers to be a great example of what a Christian professor can be.
Dr. Miller said that in the last three or four years his spare time has been spent building PowerPoint slides and other materials to support his lectures. He enjoys reading and writing when time permits. But right now, the most important objective in his spare time is spending time with his wonderful fiance and her children. Together they are planning to build a family.
To be a college history professor has been a longtime desire of Dr. Miller. He says that he is really good at obscure facts and this makes him virtually unbeatable in Trivial Pursuit. He also enjoys making bad puns and jokes. Most would never guess that one of his interests includes comic book history and this line of research includes a publication credit for the article on Cartoonist in the University of Mississippi Encyclopedia.
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