‘Rambo’ violence prompted professor to study communication

Jeff Miller explains his passion for film, and sharing it with others

Rylee Meelan, Staff Writer

 

After watching “Rambo: First Blood Part II” in the theater, Professor Jeffrey Miller immediately knew that he wanted to understand how film and media could have such an impact on people.

Originally from West Seneca, a small suburb of Buffalo, Miller was interning at a Buffalo radio station and decided that pursuing a career in radio was a definite.

Miller chose to attend Buffalo State College. The college had not only a strong broadcasting program but a great college radio station, WBNY. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Journalism, Broadcasting and Speech. Later, he earned his master’s degree and Ph.D. in communication at University at Buffalo.

During Miller’s senior year, he was chosen to help organize a panel for research day. He was given the opportunity to invite three panelists, including the general manager of a local television station, a sociology professor and a communication professor to discuss the social impact of the media.

The communication professor who was apart of this panel was Mary Cassata, who later became his graduate advisor at the University at Buffalo. Her guidance would have a profound influence on him.

“Dr. Mary Cassata and Dr. Charles Petrie had an enormous impact on me and led me to becoming a communication professor,” Miller said.

Audience reception to the “Rambo” movie in 1985 also had a huge effect on his life and career. Miller was shocked at how the deaths of dozens of Vietnamese soldiers at Rambo’s hand prompted such cheering from the audience.

The moviegoers were mostly white, young males who were not alive during the Vietnam War or its aftermath. Their vengeful and nationalistic response prompted him to question what was happening to draw such reverberation.

“Somedays, I still think I’m trying to figure out why that crowd responded the way it did during that terrible Rambo movie,” Miller said.

In 2007, Miller was a visiting professor at National Chengchi University in Taipei, Taiwan as a Fulbright Scholar. While there, he taught graduate courses in Visual Communication and U.S. Media and Politics.

Miller has been at Utica College for 20 years and teaches numerous classes. He was asked to describe the best part about being at UC. He said it is the opportunity to direct FILM@UC, the campus film series, for the past 16 years.

“For more than 30 semesters I’ve enjoyed researching, previewing, booking and presenting films from all over the world for the enjoyment of students, faculty and community residents,” Miller said. “I especially enjoy when students tell me in the same breath that they loved tonight’s film and that they ‘would have never watched a movie like that on their own.’  Plus, I’ve gotten to see some of the best films of the past 20 years in the process.”

What he enjoys most about his job is the rare perfect storm where all of his preparation, research and education meet students’ enthusiasm along with curiosity and life experience.

During seminar discussions, they will talk through an important issue, challenging idea or a meaningful example and arrive at a very exciting new insight or understand.

“Those moments cannot be predicted, planned, forced or assessed, but they’re like magic,” Miller said. “They are life-changing, mind-altering in some small way for everyone involved, and I wish that I could bottle that stuff. And when that does happen, those are the days I go home feeling happy and proud of what I do for a living.”

Aside from his teaching career, Miller enjoys spending his time with his wife and daughters. They enjoy driving out to Syracuse for a day trip to have breakfast at Funk-N-Waffles and a to see an exhibit at ArtRage gallery. He also enjoys being at home with his family, relaxing together with a fire burning while reading a book or watching movies.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s