Professor and Entrepreneur
Intro: Do you have an entrepreneurial spirit? What does an enterprising person do to reach the pinnacle of a successful career? Meet Ron Milliman, a marketing and business entrepreneur and discover the intriguing array of opportunities he created that are well suited to his engaging personality.
2011 James R. Olsen Distinguished Service Award Winner
The Story: Greetings! My formal title and name is Dr. Ronald E. Milliman. However, my friends just call me Ron and my students call me Dr. Ron, at least to my face. [Grin] I am totally blind and have been for most, but not all, of my life. I am a graduate of the Michigan School for the Blind. From there, I went on to Eastern Michigan University, graduating with a triple major in the fields of Sociology, Psychology, and Business. Soon after completing my education, I went into the insurance field, where I saw that many of my clients not only needed insurance, but wanted more of an investment-type product, so I diversified into securities and investment real estate. Though I was reasonably successful in those businesses, it was not what I wanted to do the rest of my life. So I enrolled in Arizona State University's MBA program, and then continued on to complete my Ph.D. in Marketing with supporting fields in Economics and Quantitative Systems.
I have taught Marketing at the University of Texas at Arlington, the University of Texas at El Paso, and at Loyola University in New Orleans, where I served as Chair of the Marketing Department. In 1985 I resigned my position at Loyola to accept a position with Western Kentucky University where I am currently a tenured, full professor of Marketing. In my role as a university professor, I have taught nearly all of the Marketing courses at one time or another, including Basic Marketing Concepts, Marketing Research, Sales Management, Consumer Behavior, and my favorite: Marketing on the World Wide Web.
I've also engaged in considerable applied marketing research and am quite widely published, including in the Journal of Marketing, the Journal of Advertising Research, the Journal of Consumer Research, the Journal of Business Research, and the Journal of Business Communications, as well as several others.
Since 1995 I have specialized in e-commerce, working with firms in the development of their online presence, designing web sites, coordinating their online and offline marketing efforts, etc. And, through owning a real estate investment firm, I have been quite active in real estate investing from commercial developments.
Since I only teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays, my daily routine varies depending upon the day of the week. Since I am fortunate enough to own a house within five minutes walking distance of my university office and classrooms, I do much of my work from home, including meeting with students. The first thing I do as part of my working day is to always check my e-mail to see if there is anything that requires my immediate attention. On my non-teaching days, I try to keep abreast of my reading, committee work, scheduling student appointments, any special preparation for my classes, and work on my research projects. Then, on my teaching days, I start out by reviewing class notes for each course I teach and head off to campus with my assistant.
A teaching assistant works with me about 15 to 20 hours per week, assisting me with grading exams, written papers, helping to set up the computer in the classroom, making sure it is operational, etc. Then, while I am teaching, my assistant is in my university office posting grades and materials to the computer system on a program called Blackboard, and doing other helpful things. If possible, I try to avoid having to attend departmental or committee meetings on my teaching days, but sometimes it simply cannot be avoided and so, occasionally, I have to attend such meetings after my classes end in the afternoon.
Fortunately, I have an exceptionally fine group of colleagues with whom I work. We are all highly respected and recognized in our fields of expertise, and although we don't always agree on issues that come up, we still get along extremely well. Though our socializing outside the campus is infrequent, we still have occasional parties or luncheons together.
I've always been rather fortunate in getting work. In the past, however, I ran into quite a bit of obvious discrimination when, due to family reasons and ethical disagreements in regard to student athletes, I decided to leave my then current employment and look for other work. For the first time in my life I was discouraged and depressed, feeling a sense of desperation. However, when I finally found this position here at Western Kentucky University, for which I am perfectly matched, it made all the difference. That was back in 1985 and I am still here, very satisfied.
I have been careful not to demand or even request very many special accommodations. Actually, in my field, it isn't necessary for the most part. However, Western Kentucky University has been extremely sensitive to my needs and quite accommodating, within reason. For example, I asked for the university to purchase a version of JAWS Professional when they switched to Windows XP, and they gave me a scanner to help me as well. I also requested that I be allowed to hire someone as my assistant who was not a student, as I needed someone who wasn't just looking for part-time work and who was competent with computers and computer programs. After some persistence on my part, the university's administration finally agreed to this request and now I have had the same assistant for about three years.
The teaching profession is interesting because while in a sense, I am doing the same thing every semester - teaching pretty much the same courses - it is always different because there is always a different repertoire of students and therefore, the dynamics of every class and group is very different from the last. Another added benefit to this job is that it affords me the opportunity to experiment with new techniques and ideas.
To be honest though, after a while, the constant pressure to produce high quality research that is published in top journals in my discipline gets old. Another aspect of the job that I don't enjoy is having to serve on committees. Some faculty love committees and are willing to serve on several of them, but most of the committees I have served on seemed like a waste of my time.
If you are interested in this line of work, the first thing you should know is that to become a professor in any major university requires obtaining a Ph.D. This is challenging, but certainly obtainable for anyone with the intellect and drive to stick it out. Second, my best advice is that if one is going to put forth the effort to go all the way through an undergraduate and graduate program, then one should be practical and select fields of study where there is going to be strong demand for people with those credentials.
I absolutely love my job! I enjoy the respect and prestige that go with being a university professor and though it has taken considerable work, I am a tenured, full professor. And because of my fairly distinguished research and publication record, I am recognized internationally and am quoted in numerous journal articles and textbooks, which gives me a really good feeling and sense of achievement. I enjoy my job so much that even though I could retire at any time, I cannot think of anything I would rather do day in and day out.
The Contact: Ron Milliman