Former 'Hot-Shot' Violinist Hits High Notes In Sales Classrooms


Joe Miller, PhD, a second-year associate professor of sales and marketing, is a relative newcomer to St. Ambrose University, but he brings an extraordinary breadth of perspective and energy to the campus.

A native of Detroit, Miller originally wanted to be a violinist. He graduated from Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with a music degree.

"I was a hot-shot violinist," Miller said.

He's also a hot-shot mathematician, which is no surprise given that music and math have a lot in common. In fact, Miller's first work after graduation was teaching music and math as a substitute teacher in the Detroit public school system.

Ultimately, he abandoned music for business and academics.

"I made the decision I really wanted to eat," Miller said with a smile.

So, he went to work in a variety of sales and support positions in the steel, automotive and insurance industries and soon decided to go back to school.

He graduated from Wayne State with a Master of Business Administration degree and then earned a doctorate degree in sales and marketing from Michigan State.

On paper, that sounds like a first-class academic resume-and it is-but there's a lot more to Miller than impeccable academic credentials.

Miller brings to the classroom a unique perspective on business-particularly sales-that includes a rich vein of practical experience. Miller talks the academic talk, but he also walks the business walk.

"I bring a lot of experience to the classroom," Miller said. "I have worked in many industries, and I think it has given me a good perspective on the needs of business."

In the classroom, Miller offers an approach that goes beyond the textbook.

"We are trying to turn out graduates who will have some kind of impact on their community and society," Miller said. "People who want to be community leaders. We want to make our students understand the ethics of good business."

Miller asks his students to think about what the real goal of the SAU education means. He calls it an 'industrial view' of business.

"I challenge my students to really think about what kind of industry they want to work in," Miller said. "That's what I mean by the ‘industrial view.' There are a lot of differences between a sales career in the travel industry and a sales career in robotics. I want the student to appreciate the type of industry they will go into before they try to learn too much about the specifics of sales."

According to Miller, St. Ambrose excels at providing individualized instruction.

"The opportunity for students to be with professors and for professors to get to know students is unmatched here," Miller said. "The students know they can and should seek help from the professor, not a graduate assistant, and that's a good thing. I am happy to work with them."

– Steven Lillybeck

joe miller

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