A Professor shares her passion for life and teaching
At a single glance, one may believe that they know Andrea Miller. However, Miller is an indefinable person with so many traits that it’s hard to pinpoint what makes her so engaging. Honest, happy and warming, Miller is a friend and inspiration to any student that walks through her classroom doors. During her class, they experience her bold approach to education.
Miller, an adjunct associate professor at Webster University and affiliate for the Institute for Human Rights and Humanitarian Studies, works in Webster’s Behavioral and Social Sciences Department. She teaches a variety of subjects from sex and gender to refugee and migrant rights. Although, it isn’t what Miller teaches in the classroom; it is how she teaches that separates her from others.
“One of my inspirations and someone I get momentum from is Howard Zinn,” Miller says. “Zinn’s big thing is questioning the philosophy that teachers should remain neutral, and he often took a stance in the classroom.”
Though this teaching style raises some eyebrows, her students respond very well. She enjoys this approach to teaching.
“I’m sure I tend to be more politically radical than most of the students at Webster. I’m sure it comes out in my teaching, but I’m trying to be better with that and bringing up alternative points of view. Sometimes I bring up things, and I tell my students, ‘And you think I’m controversial!’” Miller says.
Miller dislikes apathy and makes an effort each semester to get her students to care about what they are learning in her class. Indifference takes a strong toll on her mood.
“Sometimes I can’t get a student to really care in the classroom, but my hope is that I see it eventually,” Miller says. “One semester I had a student who never talked much in class, and I didn’t know if I was getting to her. She wrote a letter to the editor in The Journal, and she asked, ‘I wonder what my women’s studies professor, Andrea Miller, would say about this?’ and I finally felt like what I said mattered.”
She finds herself educating outside of the classroom as well. Kid-focused Miller has two children who have an interesting contrast. She describes Theo, 9, as not very gendered, whereas Levi, 7, is more so.
“I’m finding myself trying to educate them at a really young age. I want them to respect different genders or people who look different, and if they hear a word like ‘gay,’ I don’t shy away. I really talk to them like they’re a mini-adult,” Miller says.
Some students are surprised to learn of Miller’s bisexuality. She always informs her students at one point or another that she is attracted to both men and women.
“It’s something I need to talk about more because the assumption is still that if you’re married and have a husband, your sexual identity is cut off,” Miller says.
Many classes, topics and papers she has written have had to do with bisexuality, and one of her defining moments was discovering her bisexuality while married.
“I remember I discovered this idea of bisexuality, I’m not sure where, but I did. I wrote this paper on a female in a heterosexual marriage calling herself bisexual, and nine or 10 years ago this was pretty new and revolutionary. And I remember that I didn’t want to keep it secret because I was married. I asked my husband, Charlie, for a response. It was the greatest thing in the world because he couldn’t care less that I was questioning,” Miller says.
Bisexuality is not just an identity for Miller. She is in the midst of dissertation research and extensive writing on the topic.
In addition to her research, Miller wants thoughts about bisexuality and sexuality, in general, to be looked at more closely. She wants people to question what they think and challenge themselves to consider it differently. Miller hypothesizes that the “messy middle” contains the factors that determine our identity. She believes that many factors go into our identity, not just biological, sociological or psychological.
“People really need to get that not everything is biological, and that’s okay. Biology is not destiny.”