Miles graduated with a degree in political science from UCLA and soon after went on to graduate school, studying higher education at the University of Pennsylvania. He worked at Drexel University serving as an Honors Program coordinator and adjunct faculty member. There was a problem, though. Many of the students he worked with struggled to balance school, work, and life. It was so unsettling that it lit a fire in him. That fire now shines through as he coaches prospective and current students, uplifting them to chase their dreams and understand the higher education system before diving into college. Professor Miles serves as an inspiration to the youth of the United States as he inspires students to become motivated and self-educated, thereby ready for success.
Q. Where did your nickname, Professor Miles, come from?
While I was teaching my first Honor's Seminar course at Drexel, I told the students they could call me by my first name and that I would be their professor for this course. A few students began calling me Professor Miles, and before I knew it, my colleagues and students across the Drexel campus began calling me Professor Miles. It stuck and spread to a point where I am now referred to as Professor Miles by friends, family, students, and educators.
Q. You grew up all over the nation, moving from Oakland to Queens, Virginia to Los Angeles, and attended two universities on opposite sides of the country. Do you feel that this has helped you understand education and assist your clients better?
America has so many communities with their own traditions and values. Although there is some overlap, education differs in each community within each city. Funding differs and values differ across the nation. Living all across the nation definitely helped me understand the overall issues and the specific issues that face educational development. I realized [that] students are not self-motivated to succeed because the purpose of education in their lives has not been made clear based on their community experience. Living across the nation and being involved in education has allowed me to see these challenges first hand.
Q. Why is self-education about education important?
Know yourself to know your wealth. Without understanding who you are and who you want to be, school is a waste of time. Time is the ultimate source of wealth and value. We have to use the resources at our schools and colleges to better understand our passions and purpose. If we maximize our time to self-educate and learn who we are and what we need to know in order to achieve our goals, we will become better members of society.
Q. Do you believe we can close the opportunity gap for underrepresented students? How so?
We can close the opportunity gap. We close the opportunity gap by guiding students to self-educate and know what opportunities they want. Secondly, schools must adjust from the one-size-fits-all approach into multiple creative approaches that are specific to the community being served. Each one must teach one, and we cannot expect everyone to learn in the same way. With specialized education techniques in the classroom and personal development programs after school, we can close the opportunity gap. Lastly, funding college access and completion is a must. College is not cheap and is only going to get more expensive. If you cannot afford school, you cannot learn from school.
Q. What advice do you offer students who are enrolling in four-year institutions with feelings of uncertainty toward their majors?
What you do is who you are. Your academic major is the first focus of all jobs after college. The clubs and organizations that you lead in school are your second major focus. Your academic focus should teach you something valuable to your career goals. Your co-curricular activities should teach you soft skills, like leadership, organization, and marketing. If you don't feel confident in your major, find a few role models and find out what majors they had. There is value in following a proven path of success. Employers will value your major if it is relative to their industries. If not, your internships, summer jobs, research experience, and student leadership will be your “second” major. I majored in poli-sci, but all of my co-curricular activities were in education. My co-curricular activities allowed me to begin teaching at Drexel University by the age of 23, just two years after graduating from UCLA.
Q. When you were a program coordinator for the Honors Program at Drexel University, you facilitated four-week Habitat for Humanity projects. Do you feel that the road less traveled (one paved with humanitarian work, volunteer projects, and gap years) inspires students to think critically and learn in new ways?
We learn outside of school more than we will ever learn inside of school. Everything we study inside of the classroom was discovered outside of the classroom. We have to live life to know life. Memories of engaging our society, outside of our hometowns, enlighten us to understand our purpose in the world. I think it is imperative for everyone to take time away from school, be it a week or a year, to see the world through a different lens. When I led our Habitat for Humanity trips to North Carolina, I was able to expose these native Philadelphians to a world [that did] not focus on them. To live a life for others is to fully understand the value of our fellow human beings. A house is not a home until love arrives. We brought the love. We can begin to critically think about our purpose in the world when we volunteer our time to others.
Q. Why do you encourage students to pursue different modes of education?
School is a part of your life, but it is not your whole life. You have to learn from YouTube, from books you read on your own, and from family members. School teaches you how to pass a test. Outside of class, school teaches you how to socialize and build relationships. Life teaches you how to live. School is not designed to teach you how to thrive in the world. It teaches you how to thrive in a school setting. The world is way too big to limit your education to one college, one city, or one nation.
Q. You often speak about “motivation in education.” What does this mean to you?
When you are hungry, you are motivated to eat. You seek food. You desire it. If hungry enough, you will sell your belongings, ask for favors, steal, etc. in order to eat. You are motivated from within to achieve your goal to eat. I see education as the dinner table of opportunity, but if students are not hungry, they will not eat the knowledge dissimilated in educational institutions. In self-education, the hunger is more necessary. We have to create a hunger in students to learn to earn the life they want by using higher education as a resource to their personal and professional achievement.
How do you self-educate? Let us know in the comments below!