A relatively private person, David Miller is reluctant to talk about himself. He thrives best behind the scenes; never in front of the camera. He prefers a low profile, typical of the many people who work in the media industry, with a comparatively few high-profile talents that get all the attention. His journey to college professor took some unconventional turns.
For a while, in college, he considered entering theological seminary, then social work before discovering the wonders of broadcast media. He put in his dues as an on-air radio DJ, film editor, and projectionist early in his 20s. His college professor and mentor eventually got him to consider teaching. He helped Miller get his foot in academia – something he was initially reluctant to do.
Professor Miller waded into academia nearly 27 years ago and has spent the last 12 years at Mason's Department of Communication. He says he is still learning the ropes. "My job requires me to keep up-to-date and in tune with what students find interesting," says Miller. "Our industry is changing every six to nine months, and as far as what students have available to them today, it is a great time to be part of it all. Plus, students have a lot to offer as well."
When he is not at home in Washington DC, Professor Miller might be out travelling. It has been a lifetime passion that began at an early age, having been to Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Americas. "Travel for travel's sake broadens one's perspective," says Miller. Therefore, being tapped for his next job seems like a natural fit. He succeeds Professor Suzanne Mims as Academic Director of the very successful London PR Study Abroad Program.
The scheduled 16-day program is from January 3 – 17, 2022. The trip is a complete survey course covering the scope, nature, and practice of international public relations for businesses, associations, nonprofit organizations, and government institutions. "The UK has a special place in my heart," says Miller. "There is a magical quality to London. One cannot wait to introduce our students to it."
Professor Miller is both instructor and Coordinator of the Media Production and Criticism (MPC) program for the Department of Communication. According to figures, the program is now the second-largest concentration, averaging 160 students a year over the past five years, obtained from Mason's Enrollment Data. In his capacity, Miller teaches courses granting him the opportunity to engage with students from public relations, journalism, media production, and criticism. These courses include Introduction to Multimedia Production (208), Online Journalism (361), and Media Criticism (380).
Students in his courses turn in a portfolio of work completed in Online Journalism, a series of highly produced videos from his Intro to Media Production course, and several scholarly Argumentative Essays from Media Criticism. Peer-voted favorites from the Criticism course get published online in a growing collection of media reviews. He acknowledges that project-based courses can be challenging if one is not fully committed to one's chosen field. "It requires self-discipline, creative thinking, organization, and problem-solving skills," says Miller. "When you leave my course, I want you to have something tangible to take with you besides a letter grade" that you can show prospective employers.
Nearly a decade before Mason pivoted to online learning in 2020; Professor Miller had been administering and honing his distance education skills. So, when the pandemic hit, he was prepared.
In 2018 Miller received Blackboard's Catalyst Award for Teaching and Learning for his design of COMM 380, Media Criticism. This award recognizes those who have adopted flexible, distance, and online delivery to positively impact their students' educational experience. The same year, Mason recognized Professor Miller as a Teacher of Distinction for Online Teaching (2018) by The Stearns Center for Teaching and Learning. This award noted the significant work that Mason faculty members devote to innovative online course planning and teaching. Miller is also a recipient of the Effect Practice Award from the Online Learning Consortium (2015) for designing and implementing experiential learning through multimedia-based activities and blogging.
At the crossroads of convergent media, the Student Video Center (SVC) located in David King Hall is where production students find Professor Miller. The former GMU-TV site functions as a teaching lab for production-based courses. Students enrolled in production courses use a cloud-based reservation system to reserve gear for checkout using their mobile phones. Space can be converted quickly into a multicamera studio production facility as well.
During the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020-21, a small group of dedicated staff ensured the SVC remained opened while much of the campus services remained closed. His insistence on maintaining course integrity and meeting learning objectives were central in his decision-making process. "Our students are paying good money for us not to have those opportunities available to position them to succeed," he says.
Miller advises that students entering the job market, "not wait until graduation to get yourself prepared for the job. Consider yourselves' professionals in training' while in college," he says. Miller cautions that one’s chosen path is exceptionally competitive. One should be thinking now about what will separate themselves from everyone else seeking the same job. "Apply for internships, join Student Media. Make videos, write – even if it is not an assignment." He goes on to encourage his journalism students to "read everything, including opinions you disagree with." He also believes students should listen more. "Your purpose is to give voice to the community you represent," he says. "Never burn bridges with classmates, faculty, or work colleagues." Finally, Miller suggests "staying connected with classmates within your concentration and be a positive presence for them. It may have a lasting impact on one professionally."
May 21, 2021