Richard L. Miller - Student Introduction

Emily Balcetis
Former student of Richard L. Miller
2009 Outstanding Master's Universities and Colleges Professor of the Year
Willard Intercontinental Washington Hotel
Nov. 19, 2009

About 13 years ago, I was choosing where I would land for my undergraduate experience. I wish I could say that at 18 years of age, I had the foresight and ability to analyze raw numbers and compile matrices of the characteristics of undergraduate psychology programs...but I didn't. Lucky for me, a family friend did my homework for me. What became clear to me, even without the data analysis and statistics training that soon would come, was that the psychology department at the University of Nebraska at Kearney provided an abundance of diverse educational experiences specifically tailored to capture the interest and harness the potential of budding psychologists.

Students are enveloped in the research atmosphere by serving as research assistants, independent researchers, and equally respected collaborators on student projects and faculty research. Students have a plethora of professional doors opened for them as they participate in research apprentice programs and present at undergraduate and professional regional and national conferences. Students learn the balance between freedom of expression and the importance of rigorous critical thinking as they publish in undergraduate and peer-reviewed professional journals. What I did not know from my friend's list-but have since become well aware of-was that this distinctive union of rare opportunities is the result of 20 years of innovation, perseverance and generosity from my mentor, Dr. Richard Miller, who is responsible for creating the undergraduate psychology experience at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.

Dr. Miller has collaborated on more than 180 undergraduate research projects that have been presented at state, regional or national conferences. He has mentored 30 publications by students who were the sole authors and co-authored an additional 20 with undergraduate students. His undergraduate students have been awarded dozens of research grants, and at those conferences where student presentations are judged, two-thirds of his students have won awards for their superior work under his guidance. The creativity with which Dr. Miller approaches teaching his core curriculum is unparalleled. In no other university have I heard of students creating a community-wide science fair to debunk popular pseudoscience myths about the human mind by staging and then explaining palm reading, psychic surgery and fire-walking.

He is similarly dedicated to sharing his vision for cultivating rich undergraduate educational experiences and to that end has published or presented aspects of his vision in more than 175 journals, volumes or conferences. His distinctive approach has been recognized at the university, regional and national levels as Dr. Miller has received more than a dozen awards for his commitment to undergraduate education.

As a mentor, Dr. Miller shaped my professional and personal philosophy in ways unmatched by most others who I have I encountered during my education. The high expectations he held for me, the high expectations he taught me to hold for myself, and the firm foundation of support to achieve these aspirations are now the pillars of excellence I try to instill in my own students. The story of my relationship with Dr. Miller is not a unique one. Many other students he has impacted would similarly be honored and grateful for this opportunity to extend their thanks and appreciation for his guidance. For these and many more reasons, I am proud to have him as my first mentor but even more proud to have him as my friend.


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