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Character

Cougar Query: "You should never ask a professor about a favorite anything"

Name: Scott Miller

BYU employee since: 1994

My job at BYU is… Dean of the College of Humanities, which means I oversee around 500 faculty and 125 major and minor programs, including all language courses, literature courses, most writing courses, and many civilization courses. Few students at BYU manage to avoid our courses! I teach courses on literature, especially Asian literary works, and do research on comparative and obscure literary topics in languages with funny scripts.

Currently I’m working on… investigating the impact of Edgar Alan Poe’s writings on modern Japanese literature, as well as conducting a comparative study of a Japanese and a Swiss writer who were contemporaries but never met nor read each other’s work, yet whose writing styles bear an uncanny resemblance to one another.

I’m currently reading… コンビニ人間, by Murata Sayaka, a contemporary Japanese novel about a woman who makes a career out of working for a convenience store (it just appeared in English translation as Convenience Store Woman). I’m also reading Frankenstein in preparation for its 200th anniversary, which will include a campus read-aloud on Halloween!

Two very different professors, both passionate teachers of subjects they loved, sparked my interest in my field.

My advice to incoming freshman is… 1. Sit on the front row; your professor will get to know your name and see you as a human being — and you will feel more engaged with the class. 2. Go see your professor during office hours. We are a lonely bunch and enjoy the company.

The best-kept BYU secret is… not going to be a secret if I blab it here because...so many people are reading this. However, relatively unknown BYU indulgences I don’t mind sharing include fresh mulberries from trees around campus during the summer, room 321 in the Maeser Building (a restored early-20th century lecture hall), the cougar perched above my desk, and the remarkable collection of rare Japanese books and art in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Library.

I hiked Y Mountain… nearly every 4th of July during my kids’ childhood to watch the early-morning balloon fest from above. Pro tip: don’t hike all the way to the Y, which puts you above the balloons. The perspective is best midway up the trail.

On Saturday mornings you’ll find me… driving all over the valley with my wife acquiring delicious produce and exotic foods to prepare the week’s meals.

The title of my autobiography would be… A Short Life Sketch.

My favorite quote is… My wife says you should never ask a professor about a favorite anything, because we tend to avoid committing to one favorite thing. But, since you asked, I will say that my favorite quote changes every time I find a better one. Currently I like this quote, from Theodore Roosevelt: "A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad."

My hobbies include… piano playing, photography, growing plants, tenkara fly fishing, and bicycle commuting.

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