The landscape of professors across the nation is starting to change as more millennials graduating with advanced degrees move into teaching jobs within higher education. On campus, two of the English Department’s newest professors, Dr. Matt Garley and Dr. Andie Silva, embody the profession’s shift.
Both millennials, Garley and Silva are two of the youngest professors on campus and have created something of a new look for their department. One where professors are not only students’ mentors, but also their peers.
Garley was born and raised in Las Cruces, N.M., where he also attended New Mexico State University for his undergrad. He got his PhD in sociolinguistics in Illinois before becoming a teacher at Murray State in Kentucky.
A video gamer in college, Garley began exploring teaching late in his college years when he went to University of Illinois for his graduate program.
Silva also learned about her passion for teaching during her time in graduate school at Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich. But coming from Brazil, where she grew up, her education had almost been ingrained in her since high school.
“How I grew up, we were never given an option not to go to college,” Silva said. “That was apart of the narrative that you went through. You went to college because that’s what you did.”
But both of their experiences differ when it comes to millennial students, often portrayed by the media as entitled, narcissistic and coddled.
American millennials, though, have a very different history than those in other nations. Born between 1980 and 1997, the generation grew up during a time of economic wealth in the country but came of age during the worst economic collapse since the depression. Now, the population has become the most educated yet underpaid workers in the nation’s history.
“The new reality is obviously that a bachelors degree is no guarantee of a job,” said Garley. “That being said, with the job market being as competitive as it is, these days an education like a Bachelors and so on definitely sets you apart.”
Silva, though, has a different outlook on education, though, and said that education is viewed less of a major life step compared to Brazilian millennials.
“The way that it works here is that you get enough of a chance to explore what you want to do while you’re in college, so maybe it’s not going to get you the kind of job that you originally wanted,” she said, noting that in Brazil students pick their major early and rarely change.
Silva and Garley take different approaches to teaching in their classrooms, reaching outside of the realm of traditional into something more students can easily grasp.
Silva uses memes, which is practically a form of millennial currency, to teach her class “the history of the book” by showing her students the evolution of people’s interactions with texts.
“There are cultural connections in the times we are in now, where everything is online and we are trying to interacts with texts in very different ways,” said Silva. “Memes are something we should be paying attention to. It’s a new product of our culture.”
Garley’s syntax and grammar class has deviate from the generic rules of Strunk and White and focuses on the linguistics of English language, which he also has his PhD in, and primes it with typical grammar lessons.
“I have to take a step back and ask, ‘how do I get this information to the students in a way that’s more digestible’,” he said. “It’s how I have to package it.”
Students, though, are divided on how they feel about professors teaching them that are within their age group.
“They’re not as wise as the older professors,” said Justice Mccain, 18.
“One of the cons is that they have less experience,” said Renoka David, 17, but said that older, more senile professors tend to bore her.
“Since they’re younger they understand us better,” said Ann Coen, 19. “It’s easier to relate to them.”