Gary P. Miller


Part-Time Teaching Award (2009)
Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)
School of Social Work


Gary Miller's classes are so popular that an IUPUI administrator has suggested that even if they were taught at midnight, they would be filled to capacity. Miller, the vice president of operations at Riley Hospital for Children, is an expert in the workings of the health-care field and enjoys learning from his students as much as they love learning from him.

Students like Miller's class because he uses unconventional methods in the classroom to simulate the dynamics of health care. For his" Organizations and Communities" class, Miller brings in members of an organization to give an overview of their jobs and then assigns students positions in a classroom version of that group. From then on, part of every class is spent "running" the business, complete with board meetings, developing new proposals and sticking to budgets.

"Through this actual hands-on experience, theories come alive for the students," said Miller. "Every time, at least one significant (and very real) conflict arises. This presents a fabulous opportunity to discuss organizational conflict."

In his "Social Policy and Services" course, the most popular part of class is the debates. Every week, two students are selected and assigned different sides of a current health-care issue, such as the legalization of assisted suicide. After a week of research, interviews and preparation, each student has six minutes to present and support his side. In the process, students acquire colloquial research skills, understand the "gray" areas of health-care policy and learn to defend positions with which they personally might not agree.

"The debates were a fun and interactive way to learn the material," said one student. "Dr. Miller is a wonderful teacher who reminds me that there are still professors that enjoy teaching and are passionate about their work." And another student wrote, "Dr. Miller made class interesting, fun and enjoyable. He made us think and see things from a different perspective."

Miller's unique teaching style has captured the attention of colleagues across the university as well. He earned the outstanding Adjunct Teacher Award from the IU School of Social Work in 1992.

"Often, students don't like studying policy," said Susan Glassburn Larimer, MSW student services coordinator at the IU School of Social Work. "But when Gary taught it, I think he really made it come alive for them."

Miller serves as an inspiration to those around him, not just because of his success, but also because of his positive outlook. He was born with cerebral palsy, a disability that he doesn't let hinder any aspect of his life. In 1997, Miller was awarded the Arthur Rubloff Memorial Leadership Award from the United Cerebral Palsy Association, where he was a member of the board of directors.

"Dr. Miller is a gifted and talented teacher," said Michael Patchner, dean of the IU School of Social Work. "He has inspired many students over the years and has served as a role model to them. He has had a very positive impact on our curriculum and has made sure that our students are receiving the highest quality education possible."