Miller has been ingrained in Philadelphia for the past 24 years, and he’s made the most of it meeting people through journalism, which he endearingly refers to as “an excuse to take advantage of everybody else’s lives.”
Temple University students think George Miller is easy. According to ratemyprofessors.com, a self-explanatory and hardly scientific wiki-style website used universally by virtually every 21st century college student ever, Miller has a “level of difficulty” rating of 2.1 out of 5. How does he feel about that?
“Uh, I don’t give a s — -,” the Temple journalism professor quipped.
Which is not a surprising answer. Miller, the soon-to-be-former Northern Liberties resident and Temple journalism professor (more on that “former” bit in a sec), is notorious for swearing during classes and making students laugh. The anonymous user reviews on ratemyprofessor.com range from “really funny” to “relatively funny” to “Everyone loves Geo because he’s so funny blah blah blah and he makes people laugh sometimes and he says curse words.” Another reviewer called him “the Ted Mosby of journalism except maybe a little less emotional” — whatever that means.
“I mean, the vast majority of people who comment on there have probably taken Journalism and Society, which is a pretty easy class,” Miller said, referring to the introductory journalism course all journalism majors are required to take. “So I got no problems with that.”
Miller is right. The overwhelming majority of reviews come from students who say they only took JRN1111, which is the course number for Journalism and Society — a class in which Miller proselytizes students into becoming reporters.
But at this point the reviews are useless. Miller, who is currently the associate professor and assistant chair of Temple’s journalism department, won’t be teaching at Temple’s North Philly main campus any longer. In fact, he won’t even be in the country. On Monday, Miller is scheduled to fly to Tokyo. The next day he’ll start his new job as the associate dean for academic affairs at Temple University’s Tokyo campus. Save for three or four scheduled trips back to Philly a year, Miller will be moving to the Tokyo Metropolis permanently.
“It’s a pretty amazing fit,” he said of the opportunity. “Everything about this job is almost ideal. My family is in Japan so I wanted to go to Japan. I’ve been wanting to get over there and work there for a while. Knowing that we had a campus in Japan has always been appealing to me, and this is a way for me to go back home and be with my family, but also not leave Temple.”
Miller is half Japanese. His father was in the United States Navy and was stationed at the U.S. Naval base in Sasebo, Japan, during the Vietnam War, which is where he met Miller’s mother. Miller was born at a naval base in San Diego and grew up in Wilmington, Delaware. At a young age he was inspired to take up journalism when somebody in high school told him he was a good writer.
“I was a dumba — impressionable kid,” he said. “So I was like ‘OK I’ll be a writer.’”
He got his BA in communications from Loyola University in 1993, then meandered his way through the Ivies. He graduated from Columbia’s Graduate School in Journalism in 1997, and then earned a second master’s — this time from the University of Pennsylvania — in creative writing in 2003. He’s bounced around Philadelphia writing, reporting and photographing for a number of media outlets around the Philadelphia greater metropolitan area, including the Daily News and Philadelphia Weekly. Nowadays, he’s most well-known for being the founder of JUMP, the city’s quarterly music magazine, which only features artists from Philadelphia. The minutiae of JUMP’s future are still under wraps, but the Star can safely reveal that JUMP will continue to rock on.
“You can say that a friend of mine who also works in the industry is going to take over the magazine and give it a run and try and make it a business,” Miller said of JUMP, which was always more of a hobby and a less of a business venture for him.
On Saturday night, former students and cohorts from the Philadelphia music scene gathered at Everybody Hits, the batting cages-turned-DIY-space for up-and-coming Philly bands, for a goodbye party for Miller. The night featured a DJ, a live band (Conversations performed, a surf rock quartet featuring Jessica and Josh Craft of Kensington-based after-school music program Rock to the Future) and free booze and kegs of Kenzinger. Miller did some shots and joined in on the fun. It’s yet another example of the brotherly love he’s come to expect living in Philadelphia.
“The greatest thing in the world is to bike around Philly and just see people,” he said. “I remember last year sometime I was biking home from the gym, and I went past the criminal justice center and all the media were standing outside. I was like ‘look at that! There’s a couple of my friends and people I used to work with..’”
Then he realized “about half those people” were his former students, so he stopped and mingled.
“It was like a little reunion, and I’m going to miss that,” he said.
Does he think he’ll feel just as at home in Tokyo?
“Man, I don’t know,” he said as his voice increasingly escalated in pitch toward the end. “I don’t know,” he repeated. “That’s a concern. I mean, one of my favorite things in Philly is I ride my bike and everywhere I go, I run into friends and former students and people I know so it’s a pretty great thing. Tokyo is so massive and so sprawling. And I know maybe like a dozen or so people there [author’s note: a dozen people out of the Tokyo metropolitan area’s total population of more than 38 million people, according to the United Nations, which is the largest metro area in the world]. It’s definitely not going to be the same at all. Philly is an easy place to feel at home, and I really enjoy it here. I don’t know if Tokyo will get that way. It’s just so massive and so full of people. But I’m going to try.”
Miller has been ingrained in Philadelphia for the past 24 years, and he’s made the most of it meeting people through journalism, which he endearingly refers to as “an excuse to take advantage of everybody else’s lives.” The move will be made easier by the fact that his girlfriend, Michelle, and his shih tzu, Mookie, will be coming along with him for the ride.
The word “move” likely is a bit reductive, however. “Life-changing migration to probably the most culturally advanced and modern city in the world” is perhaps a more appropriate substitute. He’s made it happen in Philly and now he’s looking to do it all over again. Except this time it’s happening in Tokyo. For real.