1. Mark Miller

Mark "Doc" Miller

Adjunct Professor

DeVry University Indianapolis

Teaching field: Environmental Science, Critical Thinking, Public Speaking

“The most unique thing about DeVry students is their motivation. They are not going to college because it is the thing to do. They are going back to school due to a personal desire to learn, to better themselves, or even to make more money.”

Where I come from

As an undergraduate, I majored in biology and chemistry, and I also taught freshman success and career development seminars for students with undeclared majors in my university’s Peer Professor program. That started driving me toward teaching and I wanted to be an athletic trainer and biology teacher, but I did not major in teaching until I went for my Master’s in Education years later.

Right out of college, I became a radio/television host for about 7 years. It was a lot of fun, but after a while I felt like I was spinning my wheels and I wanted to get back into teaching. Intellectually there is nothing in common between education and entertainment radio, but you’d be surprised at how much they overlap in practice.

Just wants to have fun

One reason I enjoy teaching so much is that over the years I have found ways to make it fun for me and my students. I have been teaching at DeVry as well as a local high school for five years. In my first class at DeVry, I taught Environmental Science to students who had not taken science in over 10 years. They perceived science as daunting, so I worked hard to reduce their stress levels and make it accessible.

Highlights of two careers

The greatest thing about radio was interacting with people, on and off air. I hosted the #1 night show in Indianapolis radio for three years, a very unusual feat in the industry. For two of those years I was the youngest music director in the top 50 radio markets in the country.

When I made the move to education, I was very honored to receive the 2006 Golden Apple Award, an award given to a select group of teachers in Indiana for achievement in the instruction of science, math, or technology. The criteria were based on creative lesson planning for students. My winning project was called “The Paper Airplane Lab,” which studied the laws of motion using paper airplanes. The students had to understand design and calculate the acceleration in both theory and practice.

Searching out the best and the brightest

Collegiality is the key to staying on top as a teacher. I search out the best and the brightest in every environment I’m in, and I try to pick their brains. They say it takes a village to raise a child; I believe it takes a world to educate a person. I try to take the best pieces of every teacher’s approach and integrate them into my own style.

One of my inspirations is the Science department chair whom I taught alongside every day. He is retiring after 50 years of teaching, and to this day he is still one of the most popular teachers in the school because of the way he interacts with students and presents material. I also think back to my college science and history teachers, both captivating storytellers. One of my graduate professors in educational theory and practice could be the funniest person while teaching the most boring of subjects.

Respect for adult learning styles

Contemporary educational practices for adults are different than those for younger students because adults’ learning styles are already established. If the instruction does not match their style, it is not going to work. High school students are still learning how to learn. DeVry students have already developed a learning style based on their own cognitive strengths. You really have to reach out and find what their hook is. Are they visual learners? Do they learn by listening? As a teacher, my challenge is to develop a classroom experience that integrates multiple learning stimuli. DeVry’s small class size makes it possible; you have time to individualize the experience.

The power of personal desire

The most unique thing about DeVry students is their motivation. They are not going to college because it is the thing to do. They are going back to school due to a personal desire to learn, to better themselves, or even to make more money. Those motivating factors can be very strong. I tell my students, “I admire you. Your decision to go back to school while working full time and still fulfilling family responsibilities wasn’t easy. Let’s make the most of it.”

Teaching for tomorrow

I teach with one goal in mind. At the end of each class, a student should be able to do a better job at work tomorrow. If I succeed, I feel that I have helped prepare them for the real world, and they have not had to wait four years to try out what they have been learning.

For example, in my critical thinking and problem-solving class, we talk about an actual work situation that one of the students faces and analyze the problem for ways to make the situation more productive. You can find a book full of case studies anywhere, but what is really going to be meaningful to the student is something from his or her own life.

Why DeVry?

At DeVry you get to learn on your own terms. Classes go faster. You learn what you want when you want. There are lots more options than at traditional two- and four-year colleges. DeVry programs are so flexible and versatile that you can satisfy your real needs.

The public perception of DeVry as a trade school is seriously out of date. DeVry offers an education as good, if not better than other four-year colleges. Times are changing, and some traditional institutions are reluctant to follow. DeVry is a leader in providing a world-class education without traditional constraints.