Good evening. My name is Dr. Christopher Miller. I am a full-time faculty member for the department of speech communication at College of DuPage, and I have also been honored with College of DuPage’s Outstanding Advisor Award. I want to start by stating that I am extremely grateful for this award and more importantly to the student or students who took the time to nominate me.
I have been teaching at College of DuPage since 2002 and during that time I have experienced a number of challenging issues. However, I decided to come to you about this issue because it truly means a lot to me.
Although I have been honored with it, I don’t feel like I have “earned” this award. I do not feel this way as a way to practice humility, rather I feel this way because although I advise students, I feel less like an advisor and more of an armchair therapist.
Currently, I am actively advising, 8-12 students, but these students don’t need me to figure out classes or to help me navigate their transition to a communication or education major, rather they are coming to me with real issues. Issues that I just don’t know how to handle. And to be honest: I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m listening. I think that’s good, but I’m a speech teacher. I have a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Communication from Northern and I have a Doctorate in Curriculum and Instructional Leadership, also from NIU, but I’m not a licensed therapist.
I’ve attended a number of “meetings” in my life for personal issues. Moreover, I actively see a therapist, luckily because I have this particular job, but I’ve also learned, quite clearly, in those meetings, and from my therapist, to stay in my lane. I should only be giving advice on things that I know about and my students are coming to me, today, with issues that I have no experience. And I’m afraid that one of us is going to get hurt.
And that is why I am here.
I need help. Nine years ago, I made a personal decision to start asking for help. Now that I’m 50 years old, I even further understand the benefits by simply asking for help. As an faculty member of this college, I will ALWAYS keep my door open for my students and I’m ALWAYS going to listen to their stories, but I don’t know how to decompress from these stories. I think that’s part of a therapist training, but I don’t have that training. Instead, I take those stories home with me. I don’t think that’s good practice.
We need help. We need help transitioning from the effects of mass social isolation and an individual’s unique personal experience with that transition. We need help. Our students need help. I need help and I pause to say, but I believe we all need help. We were alone, for a couple of years people, now we are together again. For some, and it seems, a lot, of us are struggling with this transition. Rather than lose these essential workers, I implore the Board to LOAD this campus with mental health counselors. My students need them. I need them. You need them.
I am grateful to all of you for allowing me the opportunity to speak to you tonight.