A Conversation With Dr. Larry L. Miles: English and Humanities Professor At Clark Atlanta University

Her Campus CAU had the amazing opportunity to interview Dr. Larry L Miles, A Humanities and English Professor at our very own Clark Atlanta University. We discuss his education background, teaching methods as well as why he wanted to become a professor.

HC: First, tell me a little bit about yourself. What is your educational background? 

I am from Paterson, NJ.  My first educational experience was being interviewed by Mr. Joe Clark (of Lean on Me fame) to enroll into School Number Six my Kindergarten year.  I am an artist, so I began my college career at the Atlanta College of Art and Design in the early 90s.  After serving in the U.S. Army, I returned to school at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (ULL) to get a degree in Psychology.  I double majored in English and Psychology and minored in History.  I completed my Master’s degree coursework in Rhetoric and Americana Studies at ULL also.  In 2007, I enrolled at Clark Atlanta University to complete my Master’s degree in African American Studies.  I will be graduating in May of 2019 with a dual Ph.D. in English and African American Studies from CAU. 

Patterson, NJ

HC: When did you know you wanted to become a professor? 

 I began teaching for Upward Bound at ULL first.  I thought I was a better middle and high school teacher for a while.  However, after my time teaching at those levels, I realized that I wanted to teach at the collegiate level because of the amount of freedom that we have in developing our own curriculum. It’s not that I get teach whatever I want.  I still have to adhere to the integrity of the programs that I teach for.  However, I do have the ability to add to the course curriculum in order to challenge my students to think beyond what has been taught to them via their compulsory education.  

 HC: Are there any similarities between the university you attended and Clark Atlanta University? How was it different?

  I know that an individual’s education is what they make of it no matter the institution they attend.  Yet, there is another level of attentiveness, care, watchfulness, etc. that comes along with being at an HBCU (CAU).  There is a difference between fitting in and being a part of the culture and the academic space at CAU that I did not get at any other institution.  At the predominately Euro-American Institution (PEI), I was a student and faculty member who did not fit into the culture.  So I came and went without having bought into the goals and aspirations of the institution, the faculty, staff, or many of the students there.  At CAU, I feel as though I am part and partial to the trajectory of the institution, the students, other faculties, and staff.  I care that what I do and how I teach affects the student population and how others may perceive our institution on a scholarly level. 

Image via: Dr. Larry L Miles

HC: What do you like most about teaching as a career?

 The most appealing part of being an educator for me is the look in a student’s eyes when the “get it.”  I still get chills when I see students think through a process and not just accept information at face value.

 HC: What is your class about?

I teach in the English and Humanities Departments at CAU.  The English courses are college composition and world literature courses.  The Humanities courses are pre-history to 1914 and 1914 to the present day.  They are set up to navigate thousands of years of documented human history and culture.  The irony is that I get to incorporate my Humanities courses into the English course content, especially the world lit courses.  I begin the Humanities courses with studying Ancient KMT (Egypt), its people, culture and spiritual systems.  Then I demonstrate the global contributions that people of African descent have given to humanity which have been erased from or marginalized in the academy.

 HC: Have you taught the same lessons at a predominately white institution? 

 I’ve taught much of the same content everywhere I’ve had the pleasure to teach. 

HC: Did you have to modify your material when you taught students at PWIs? 

 I don’t have to modify the material for any group of students.  The truth is that the majority of us who have completed the compulsory education system in the United States have been taught much of the same content which have marginalized people of African descent and celebrated what we have come to call “Western” societies.  I’ve had plenty of Euro-American students reiterate the same concepts of Greco-Roman and Western accomplishments and the uncivilized “slave” identity of Indigenous peoples of the Americas and Africa.  And it is my pleasure to level the playing field and teach the African and Indigenous American contributions to the Greco-Roman and Western worlds.  They (PEI students), like my students at predominately Black institutions (PBI), are often taken aback at first and need me to give them more proof to substantiate the information I present in my courses.  The irony is that it often seems as if I have to give more proof to the PBI students than to the PEI students.

HC:  What do you like best about teaching at a historically black university? Why did you decide to teach at an HBCU instead of a pwi? 

 At the moment I adjunct at different institutions, but my first choice is, of course, an HBCU.  The main reason is that I have an unwavering love and appreciation for my culture, my people, our history, and trajectory.  I do not see any other place where I could share that love, the information, the history, the aspirations, the development and future progress of my culture and people than at an HBCU.  I get to reach so many young people at one time.

 HC: Do you think there’s a difference in the curriculum being taught at historically black colleges and predominately white institutions? 

 There are major differences in curriculums at the institutions that I have attended.  I was completing a Master’s degree in Rhetoric and Americana Studies at UL Lafayette and I still had not been taught or introduced to any of the modern or historical contributions of the original indigenous and autochthonous peoples of the Americas or the African to civilization.  I had to come to an HBCU to learn that we have made far greater contributions to humanity than just slavery, a Harlem Renaissance, a Civil Rights Movement, and Hip Hop.

HC: What do you hope your students take away from your class? 

 My goal in teaching is to have my students get deep down inside of their psyche that they are divine people with an amazing history and culture.  It has been within the minds, imagination, purview, and abilities of their people (those who have been labeled Negro, Black, Colored, Mulatto, Afro and African American) that inventions from the dustpan to the helicopter (and so much in between) have been created which benefits humanity.  I want them to know that with the right amount of audacity they can continue to contribute to humanity beyond the limits imposed upon them via their earlier acculturation process.