Gary Miller - Keynote address for the 2011 Alpha Sigma Lambda ceremony

Uploaded by PSUWorldCampus on 07.07.2011

Thank you Leslie.
And good evening everybody.
Let me add my welcome
to the inductees this evening
and to all of your friends and
and relatives who are here tonight.
We -
those of us who have been adult learners
know that you
you don't do this all by yourself.
So it's great to see
so many families and friends in
in the audience as well.
I, I can't tell you how wonderful
it is to see the progress that uh
Alpha Sigma Lambda has made
over the past few years,
and the growth in adult learners
here at Penn State.
For you it's an
incredible personal achievement
uh again only those of us
who have been there
know how powerful this
experience really can be.
But it also gives me
a great deal of professional satisfaction
as someone who spent many years
advocating and organizing
Continuing and Distance Education programs
to see how the adult learner
has moved into the mainstream
here at the university.
Not to long ago
I interviewed Karen Cator
the Director of Educational Technology
for the U.S. Department of Education
for the American Journal
of Distance Education,
and she noted that the -
at the federal level
the administration has set a goal
of increasing the percentage
of high school graduates
who go on to earn a college degree
from the current thirty-nine percent
to sixty percent
by the year 2020.
That's an incredible goal.
I mean, it's almost fifty percent
increase in the number of
kids who go on.
And that means greatly increasing
the number of high school students
who leave high school
ready to go on to college,
but it also means
that universities need to give
a lot more attention to
uh reaching and
and providing access to adults
who are already in the work force.
Uh uh
but who have already started
their families and so forth.
If we're gonna get to that goal,
and that's a societal goal.
That's uh an economic development
sustainability goal.
We've got to work both ends
of that spectrum.
We've gotta better prepare kids,
but we also have to do
a much better job
of reaching adult students.
And what it means for the university
is that the old boundaries
uh are going to blur.
The boundaries between
the university and high school,
and the boundaries between
the university and the work place.
Uh so that we can find ways of
of bringing more people into
the educational process.
So tonight in a way,
we're celebrating both your
personal achievements
and your role as pioneers
in this new era
because I think we're on
just on the beginning of
of a real change in the way
we think about education
in our country.
And those of us who
have functioned as adult learners
and achieved must as adult learners
will have much to say I think
to the rising generation
as we move forward.
For me this is an exciting
development for a lot of reasons,
but one of them is that
because you've -
I've I've been like you -
I've been a uh adult student myself.
And we can argue
over when one starts
to be an adult,
but for me,
I've thought of myself
as an adult learner
from pretty early on.
I hadn't really
when I was a teenager.
I never thought I would go to college.
Uh I thought,
I never thought I'd be able to
because we just didn't have the resources.
But I got the chance
when Penn State opened a campus -
the Shenango Campus -
in my hometown,
and that meant that
I could live at home,
I could work at night,
and I could go to college
in the daytime.
I had started working -
I'm, I'm not gonna talk
too much about this -
I started working at local Arby's
when I was still in high school
and by the time
I started at Penn State
I was a shift manager
and spent one summer out in Denver
uh training crews
for stores out there.
And I thought,
you know that might be my future.
I'd be in the restaurant business
once I got out of college.
So when I knew I was
coming here to finish my education
I suggested to the company
that they open a store here.
This was in 1968
and there was no
Arby's in State College.
And I thought,
well I could manage that store
while I finish school
and that would help
me pay for my degree.
And so they thought about it
and and their wisdom told me -
and again this was 1968 -
they'd done the research
and there was no market
for fast food in State College, Pennsylvania.
I came anyway.
And there weren't
any fast food places.
In 1968 there was one -
there was a Wimpy's,
but there wasn't a lot of fast food.
So I understood where they
were coming from,
but I still needed a job.
and a fellow student here
at the university said -
I was a journalism student at the time,
I eventually moved into English -
but he suggest that since
I was a journalism major
I go across the street -
I was in East Halls -
to Wagner building
and get a job at the university's
Public Broadcasting Station.
And he thought maybe
they'll hire you
to write press releases
because you're gonna be a journalist.
Well as it turned out
they didn't have any writing jobs,
but they did hire me
as a part-time Production Assistant
and so for the next two years
while I finished my baccalaureate degree
I learned all about
television production.
Uh I ran camera,
we did the lighting,
we did the audio,
we painted the sets,
we swept the floors,
uh we did just about everything.
And then when I graduated
they had a federal grant
and I was able to get
a full-time job as a
television Production Assistant.
I had something that
none of my other friends
in the English Department had -
a full-time union job with benefits.
Uh and so I stayed there.
Uh I stayed at uh
uh what was then WPSX
is now WPSU.
And after a year or so
I moved out of the studio
and into programming
and did on-air promotion.
And a couple of years after graduation
I became the Public Information Director
for the TV station.
I actually got to write press releases.
Uh and I got to handle
all sorts of other PR things
and publications
and and events related to
promoting the station.
And after
about four years of that
I thought I better
I better get a graduate degree
if I'm gonna continue to do this
and I thought,
well I'm working in television
and I'm working in public information,
time to go back to journalism.
So I called the Department Head
in Journalsm and I said,
I'm thinking of getting a
master’s degree in Journalism
and he gave me uh
I think some of the best advice
I ever got in higher education.
He said,
you're already working in this field.
You've got a lot of experience
in this field.
You do not need
a master’s degree in Journalism.
You need a master’s degree,
but you don't necessarily need
a master’s degree in Journalism.
He said,
get a degree in something you like,
something you love
because you've got the experience
and that'll bring you
new things to your job.
So that's what I did.
I got my master’s degree
in English too
uh and and
while I was working
uh at the station.
And in those days at the station
our philosophy in Public Broadcasting
was that promotion of the show
was the first step in engaging
viewers intelligently in what they
were going to watch.
And over years we started
doing other kinds of things
to engage the the viewer.
We started giving away booklets
to go with the TV series
and organizing community groups
at the campuses
to watch the shows
and sending faculty out to libraries
to give lectures on the topics
we were doing
and all those kinds of things.
Uh and I got involved
in all of those as well.
I remember one time we
wanted to get people to watch
TV Quaterbacks with Joe Paterno
so I, I don't know anything about football,
I still don't know anything about football,
but I went out
and interviewed all the coaches
and asked them you know
what's a quarterback do?
And I wrote up this poster about
football the Penn State ways -
what all the different positions were
and that kind of thing.
So we got a lot of
ways to engage viewers
and we organized that
into something called viewer services
and over time I kind of
moved over towards this
engagement function.
And then in the early eighties
when we combined with uh
on-campus Instructional Media
uh they created a
Department of Instructional Media
and I, I developed that.
I, I became Director of Instructional Media.
It was an exciting time
uh in terms of technical innovation
in the
in a very short period of time.
We moved from being able to
serve only our local
twenty-nine county viewing area
to being
having a statewide cable TV channel
and then a national satellite network.
Uh by the 1980's
we were offering live
national satellite teleconferences
and our very first one -
I remember very well -
gave nuclear science faculty
around the country
their first chance to look at
film of the core from Three Mile Island -
to see what had
really happened there.
So that was
what we were able to do
with technology by that time.
And by the mid 1980's
we were using video,
video conferencing
to extend the master's degree
in adult education to our campuses
in western Pennsylvania
and we were also producing
video courses for national delivery
through PBS -
the Public Broadcasting Service.
And at the same time we didn't have
The World Wide Web yet in the eighties,
we were experimenting with digital content
and simulations on video disc
and that kind of thing.
And throughout that period
the emphasis wasn't on technology
at at work.
We talked about technology
but our real emphasis was on
access to education
and that's what we
cared most about -
was ways we could use technology
to provide access to education.
So when it came time for me
to think about my next step
I decided I,
I wanted to stay in higher education.
That it wasn't television
I was interested in,
it was this access thing
I was interested in.
And that meant getting a doctorate.
So I enrolled part-time
taking one course per semester
in the doctoral program
in higher education at Penn State.
We didn't have an adult education
degree at that time.
Uh and I took my very first course
was a survey course
of American higher education.
I had decided
during that course
that I'd focus my research
on general education.
For most of us that's
the first two years -
the distribution part
of the curriculum -
but I learned that historically
it's meant a lot of different things.
And studying general education
uh gave me a chance
to learn about educational philosophy.
I studied John Dewey,
who is I think probably
America's greatest public intellectual.
I studied Robert Hutchins,
who created the great books program
in Chicago.
And then by extension
ran into all sorts of other people.
Uh the
probably the one that
impressed me the most
was Jane Addams from Chicago.
How many people know
the name Jane Adams?
A few.
Jane Addams was the first
American women to receive
the Nobel Peace Prize
back in the 1920's and 30's.
She is the Founder of
Hull House in Chicago
and was just an amazing person.
I, I encourage everybody to go
take a look at the website
at Hull House or read a book
about Jane Addams.
She was a really uh
an amazing woman.
But that kind of study was uh
a great journey for me
and it was also nice in hindsight
looking back on it
to be able to work with
all these different technologies
during the day
and at night retreat and read about
the history of education
and read John Dewey
and read Jane Addams
and get involved
and a
and a different perspective on it.
The interesting thing though
is that those two
very different kinds of activities
never really quite separated.
What we were doing with technology
in both K-12 and higher ed.
and what I was doing in my
doctoral work uh in terms of
historical study and philosophy
of education study
worked pretty well together.
Uh as things turned out.
my doctoral work gave me
a perspective on the role
of what we were
by then calling distance education.
That perspective that
I might not have developed
if I'd just specialized in technology
or in journalism
or something more narrow.
And I was able to focus
not so much on the technology
or on public media per say,
but on the social drivers -
the things that were making us
want to get involved
in these kinds of things.
And that became very helpful
when we launched the World Campus,
which really was a departure for
for Penn State
even though it was built on a long long history.
So if there's one lesson
that I can pass along
from my experiences
as an adult letter
uh learner,
it's that advice that Journalism Department Head
gave to me
back in the 1970's
in which I discovered again
in the 1980's
when I researched the history
of general education -
and that is,
study what you love
and then apply that to your work.
Here, here in the United States
we have a tendency in higher ed.
to get increasingly
more specialized as we advance.
We have a nice
general high school education,
we spend a couple of years
reading this and that
and the other thing
and the first part of our
undergraduate education
and then we get into our major,
go into graduate school
and now you're more focused
just on one aspect of your
your discipline,
and by the time you get to your
doctoral program you're looking at a
very specialized kind of thing.
I don't think
that that's a very practical approach
for us adult learners because
we have so many more things
we're bringing to that education.
We're already active in our work,
we already are leading families,
we're already involved in our communities,
and what we need is
not just specialized knowledge -
we need a context that allows us
to put all of that stuff to work.
So that's why I say
as you move on
to your next degree.
Pick something you love and study it
and figure out how to
apply that to your job
rather than just be uh
sucked into a kind of narrow
uh kind of study.
So let me just
leave you with that idea.
Look for opportunities not only
to develop your specialized
skills and knowledge -
we need to have that -
but also to expand your horizons
and add new perspectives
that will allow you to be successful
in what the unknown territory
that lies ahead.
I'm pretty confident
that most of us will
be experiencing new things out there.
We live in a time of really rapid change
and innovation is going to be
as important as anything else
uh to our success as a country
in the future.
And this broader view
I think is important.
So study what you love.
Congratulations again.
Uh thanks to all of you for coming.
Pete thank you
for inviting me to speak this evening.
I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Thank you.