Dr. Channon Miller, Diversity Post-Doctoral Fellow

 Channon Miller

Interview by Nadia Nguyen, Sophomore, Communication Studies

Describe a unique aspect of your everyday perspective that impacts your teaching.

I arrived here to University of San Diego and the Department of History as a Diversity Post-Doctoral Fellow by way of Boston University where I completed by PhD in American Studies in May of this year. I am teaching African American History this semester, African American Women’s History next semester. As these courses suggest, my scholarly interests and expertise revolve around the ways in which raced and gendered mechanisms of oppression have unfolded in black women’s lives, their negotiations of these forces, and their modes of grasping social justice. As I navigate academia, I often pause and reflect upon how I got here – the road to this very moment – the road to teaching, studying, and researching the narratives of the uniquely invisible – the road to a fulfilling profession. There was an array of moving pieces that made this career possible – but many of them were my professors. It was a professor, at my undergraduate institution, Trinity College (CT), that told me – an uncertain, self-doubtful, a student of color on a predominantly white campus, and first-generation college student - that I was meant and purposed to be in the academy and that my writing had potential to open doors of knowledge and understanding. It was an undergraduate professor that provided me with the opportunities necessary to hone in on and practice my teaching and researching through an array of assistantships. It was an undergraduate professor that helped me develop and embolden my doctoral dissertation.  When I teach and interact with students I keep the educators that helped plant my feet on this campus in mind. I often consider ways to transform my classroom into an environment in which we can collectively and jointly work together to forge new intellectual paths and opportunities.

How do you get to know your students?

Getting to know the students – their beginnings, hopes, aspirations, and strengths is one of the most prized aspects of teaching for me. It allows me to locate best teaching practices, reform the materials used in class, as well as determine how I can be most useful and supportive of them. Firstly, I get to know them within the classroom through discussion. In addition to this, I converse with them before class begins as their classmates fill into the room, in the hallways following class, and when we see one another on campus. I ask them questions such as, “How are you doing?” “Are you enjoying the class?” “Is there anything that you need additional help with?” “What other classes are you taking?” “What is your major?” and “What are you involved in on campus?” Most important, I get to know the students during office hours. There we can converse one-to-one and at times in groups of three. We have unlimited time and a quiet space to navigate the work material, as well as discuss other topics important to the students. After office hours, the students grow more comfortable with the curriculum, and myself as their instructor and guide.

How do you create equitable learning environments?

In creating an equitable learning environment, I acknowledge that the students emerge from distinct, societal positionalities and act accordingly to respond to these varying needs and demands. To ensure that all students have access to achieve the learning goals laid out in my syllabi, I have to first acknowledge that they do not have the same starting points and provide the accommodations necessary to level the playing field. This means for example, documenting the learning processes for those with disabilities and providing extra time for testing for these students. It also entails modifying assignments. In my courses I standardly require weekly Blackboard posts. If a student is having issues with their computer, and cannot afford to purchase another one, they can submit handwritten posts until they are able to access another computer by way of the university or their families. Another way in which I create an equitable environment is through my course book selection. Again, considering that all cannot afford to purchase books, I do my best to ensure that my required texts are inexpensive, on-line, and at available at Copley and local libraries. Further, if I own multiple copies of the texts, I place them on reserve at the Copley library.

What do you want fellow faculty members to know?

I welcome collaborations and consultations with faculty and staff in efforts to bring black life, history, and culture, as well as race, gender, and intersectionality to the fore by way of course work, syllabi, or campus, academic, and public programming. You can find me in my office in the Institute for Peace and Justice, Department of History Room 290 and through e-mail at channonmiller@sandiego.edu.