MCLA

Love of Learning

10/12/2011

The newest member of MCLA's department of sociology, anthropology and social work loves to teach because she loves to learn. "I find that I learn so much from teaching and so much from my students, just from listening to them and seeing how they handle things and what their experiences are," said Kathleen Miller, an associate professor of social work.

Miller is not new to campus: She started teaching at the College as an adjunct instructor in 2000, when she taught sociology classes and social work courses for a practitioner series.

"My friends in the department really encouraged me to go back to school and get my Ph.D., because I liked teaching so much" Miller said. "So, I quit my full-time job and went back to school."

Social work has been a long-time calling for her.

"A lot of the skills that social workers employ - such as listening and problem solving and working on social problems and social issues - have always been kind of a big part of my life. My parents were very involved in social action when I was a child, so I saw that example," she explained. "Along with a small group of other parents, they brought a lawsuit against the Minneapolis Department of Public Schools because of segregation in the schools. I grew up with this sense of social action. They did a lot of other community involvement and always involved my brother and me in that kind of work, such as volunteering from an early age. That was a family legacy."

As an undergraduate at the Bard College at Simon's Rock in Great Barrington, Mass., Miller worked on a battered women hotline. She went on to work at a children's shelter, then in Pittsfield, Mass., for the state's child protective services agency, the Massachusetts Department for Children and Families, when she earned her master's degree in social work

When she filled in for another professor at MCLA, "I found that I just loved teaching. It was a result of teaching that one class that brought me to MCLA."

At the suggestion of professors in the department, as well as MCLA President Mary K. Grant, to go back to earn her Ph.D., Miller did just that, and returned to the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Conn., where she earned her master's degree in social work. She expects to complete her Ph.D. this spring.

In addition to MCLA, Miller taught at the University of Connecticut in its master's program, as well as at Westfield State University, in its bachelor's program. She's also taught at Springfield College in its master's of social work program.

At MCLA, Miller aims to become a full member of the College community and to connect class work to real-life experience for her students. She wants her students to become more aware of social problems and situations so they might connect them to the larger society. "But also, so they might look to their local community to say, 'What can I do about that?'"

Having taught at multiple institutions, "I have to say, the MCLA student is generally a well-prepared student. They're getting a good foundation in liberal arts education, which is teaching them how to think. I find them to be respectful students who are really engaged in their learning. I find them to be exceptional, across the board."