Though he was born in Lexington, Kentucky, Michael Miller calls Orlando, Florida home. Miller spent much of his life on a military base until his father retired to Orlando in 1971. Now an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice at South College, Miller talked with us about his experiences that lead him to South College.
South College: What attracted you to study criminal justice?
Michael Miller: I’m not sure what initially attracted me to criminal justice. I did an internship with a small police department out of high school and that kind of got me interested. I applied to the police department and got a sponsorship to the police academy and off I went.
SC: How did you get the internship working at the police department?
MM: I think I just answered an ad in the paper. It sounded interesting to me so it was kind of just a happenstance thing. I had always been interested in going into the military or maybe doing something in government or law enforcement. That’s probably what drew me to it.
SC: How did you come to work at South College?
MM: All of my wife’s family is from Knoxville so we wanted to be back here near them. I started job searching and found the job at South College, applied, got hired and moved my family here.
SC: What’s your favorite part about working at South College?
MM: I think it’s the interaction with students and getting to know them and their story. I really enjoy helping them take their aspirations and translate that into reality.
SC: What’s unique about South College’s criminal justice program?
MM: Probably that people don’t realize how many different careers exist within the field of criminal justice, and it just continues to grow. That’s what makes this field so interesting – there’s something for everyone. There are a whole lot of different subfields in the overriding criminal justice fields.
There are three main parts to criminal justice: courts, corrections and police. Within those, you’ve got state, local and federal police and probation. Then there are all kinds of associated fields that are quasi-counseling, quasi-outreach, victims’ advocates – they stray from the typical police, probations or corrections officers. A lot of our students gravitate to those because they may or may not see themselves in the traditional roles of police or probation officers. The best news is that there is something for everyone here.
SC: South College criminal justice students can participate in a police ride along as a part of their studies though the Knoxville Police Department. What’s that like?
MM: It’s an exciting program. They go for an evening, usually it’s a minimum of four hours, but we’ve had students who had to be kicked out of the car at the end of the night because they didn’t want it to end. They ride along with the officer, and then they write a paper about it and talk about it in class. I’ve never had a student that didn’t come back and say “that was not was I expected.” I think they watch too much television and think that what police officers do is something very different. It’s always enlightening. A lot of them come back and decide they want to do police work, because it’s just really interesting to them.
I’ve had a lot of students who had a jaded opinion of the police force before they went on the ride along. That often changes afterwards because they get to talk to a police officer, ask questions and get to know them as a person. They find out a lot of the police officers are not that much older than they are and have a lot of the same experiences they do. So it’s a great assignment, and I’m going to do it as long as I can. We also do it in our criminal law class because we want all of our legal studies students to do it – the criminal justice side and the legal studies side.
South College offers an associate degree, bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in criminal justice. Contact us today to find out more!