Fall 2020 Alum Interview: Michael Miller

Michael Miller (Ph.D., 2017) is the program director for the Social Science Research Council (SSRC)’s Just Tech program and co-director for the Media and Democracy program. He began working at the SSRC as a Mellon/ACLS public fellow and program officer for the Media and Democracy program.

Caroline Sigler: Can you describe the work that you do for the SSRC?
Michael Miller: Currently, I am the director of the Just Tech program and co-director of the Media & Democracy program at the SSRC. The Just Tech program is a new initiative which aims to support research about the intersection of technology and power, especially as it relates to questions of marginalization and identity. I began working at SSRC as a program officer for the Media and Democracy program at the SSRC. This program supports research surrounding the effects of innovations in media technology and institutions on a variety of political practices by hosting regular research development workshops and public events.
CS: What was your experience like post-graduation?
MM: After graduation, I adjuncted for a time. But given the demanding nature of the work, the little pay, lack of security and the fact that I was at the time expecting a child I knew that I could not continue with that work. I learned of the ACLS Public Fellows Program and decided to apply. This program places recent Ph.D. graduates from across the humanities in nontraditional academic settings. This is how I originally received my position at the SSRC.
CS: How did your time at the GC prepare you for your career afterwards?
MM: I am constantly evaluating academic research and the GC prepared me to assess the strength and clarity of an argument, which in turn helps me to provide more effective feedback to my colleagues. In a more general sense, going to the GC gave me numerous opportunities to teach. Indeed, this is one of the challenges of attending the GC — the heavy teaching load most students bear. But it is important to remember that teaching is a transferable skill. When you teach, you are getting practice standing in front of an audience and communicating high level ideas in a way that makes sense to others. There are a number of contexts outside of academia in which these skills are incredibly useful.
CS: What advice would you give to current GC students?
MM: Publish. If you want to enter into academia after graduation you should try to publish as much as possible. I say this as someone who did not publish in school. As a student, I was worried that my academic work was insufficient. But part of the publication process includes making substantial revisions to your work. No paper is perfect when it is sent out for publication. Think of it this way: when you submit a paper for class, a professor (who is an expert in the field) is evaluating your work and giving you feedback. This is not an opportunity that is as forthcoming after graduation. I recommend that after receiving feedback from a professor on a paper, start making the suggested revisions immediately. Then start sending that paper around for publication. My other advice would be to start seriously considering if academic work is what you want to pursue, especially given the state of the job market. If not, take an audit of the skills you’ve obtained through your training at the GC — methods, writing, editing, public speaking, organizing events, writing grant proposals, managing budgets — and consider how (not if) these skills are transferable to a variety of non-academic careers.