Hidden Figures Series: Adrianne Miles, Assistant Professor of English and Linguistics
It’s often the case that the hidden figures of history turn out to be pillars on which we stand. This reality was brought to the forefront in recent years through movies like “Hidden Figures” where many learned for the first time that the first successful American orbit around the moon in 1969 was indebted to the mathematics work of Mary Jackson an African American woman. With that said, the Kingdom Diversity Initiative wants to continue in this spirit by bringing attention to often forgotten minority male and female voices and contributions through a series of post entitled ‘Hidden Figures’. This series will highlight figures from church history as well as celebrate the individuals on our campus that reflect the ideals of Kingdom Diversity and our commitment to “equipping students from every corner of the kingdom to serve in every context of the kingdom”
Tells us about yourself and you how came to know Christ?
My husband and I have been married for twenty-two years, and we have two teenage boys. We have attended North Wake Church since 2002 and strive to raise our boys according to God’s Word. I was also raised in a Christian home where I gave my eternity to Christ just over forty years ago. However I did not understand how to give my every day to Him until several years later. As a young child I understood that Jesus had sacrificed everything to pay the price I could not pay. I remember feeling overwhelmed by His love. I loved Him in return and prayed for forgiveness so that I could spend eternity with Him. I attended a Christian school through the tenth grade, so I knew how to act like a Christian, but my convictions were not tested because I lived my life in a Christian bubble. In high school and college I wrestled with the tension between God’s commands and my selfish desires. Looking back on those years, I can see how God was patiently teaching me that my eternity was not enough; He wanted my whole life on earth as well. I was not always willing to give Him every aspect of my life, but God changed my heart when He changed my geography. I moved from North Carolina where I had finished my master’s at NCSU to Austin, Texas (UT) to pursue graduate studies, and God was the only friend I had in my new home. I have never been so homesick or so lonely. But God was there. He taught me to spend quality time with Him and used this time of loneliness to grow in me a longing for church fellowship and Christian community. In Texas, I came to understand that God cares about my everyday study time and work time. I learned to see Him in all aspects of my life. He was with me during my phonology tests just as much as He was with me on Sunday mornings. I also learned to glorify Him in my work. In my flesh I wanted to remain shy and silent, but in my love for God I found the strength to praise Him in front of my peers for the blessings of a good grade or teaching position. I also learned the importance of serving in my Christian walk. Through each avenue of service, God taught me much more than I taught others, and He poured out the blessings of service on me.
How did you end up in your current position at Southeastern?
I attend church with Dr. Jerry Lassetter, the Director of Distance Learning at SEBTS. I was serving with his wife in our church’s Mother’s of Preschoolers Program (MOPS), and Dr. Lassetter told me that SEBTS was looking for someone to teach a few linguistics classes. Both he and family friends like Dr. Michael Lawson, the Director of Campus Security at SEBTS, and Dr. Greg Mathias, the Associate Director of the Center of Great Commission Studies, encouraged me to send in my curriculum vitae. As a result I began teaching as an adjunct professor in 2010. My adjunct responsibilities grew after a conversation with Dr. Brent Aucoin, Associate Dean of the College for Academic Affairs, at a community baseball game. Our sons were playing on the same team, and he asked if I would be interested in adjuncting for the college. Adjuncting for the college led to an opportunity for a full-time position in 2014. Dr. Jamie Dew, Dean of the College, called me at home one evening to ask if I was interested in coming on full-time, and the rest is history.
Describe the role your job plays to contribute to the mission and vision of Southeastern? At SEBTS every classroom is a great commission classroom — even literature class! Literature—along with other popular arts—is an excellent bridge-building tool. I often tell my students that my goal is not to teach them to love literature; my goal is to teach them to appreciate literature and use it as a tool to build a bridge to the lost. It is so much easier to talk about Dr. Jekyll’s struggles and mistakes than it is to directly address your friend’s mistakes. If we can discuss how God could have made a difference in Dr. Jekyll’s life, our friends might be more likely to listen and begin to think about what God might do in their own lives. I also like to point out that if students can master this bridge-building skill with literature, it is an easy leap to share the gospel through popular movies and television shows. By approaching literature in this way, I am teaching students to think critically, communicate clearly, and recognize the imprints of God in the larger culture. As a minority on campus what are some unique challenges you face in order to accomplish your job goals? The faculty and staff at SEBTS have been extremely welcoming and supportive of me. I could not ask for a better place to work. They have been extremely supportive of my efforts to encourage other women on campus through The Society for Women in Scholarship. Many of our cabinet members have approached me directly to talk about women’s experiences on campus in order to see their own blind spots and make SEBTS a welcoming place for women. I feel like more challenges come from outside of our campus. For example, when Christian leaders in the larger culture make statements about women teaching on a seminary campus. While such statement can cause me to experience momentary uncertainties and insecurities about how I am perceived, I choose to focus my thoughts on the One who directs my path. I know God brought me to SEBTS, and I know the men I work with are grateful that I am here.
What do you hope your presence here on campus can contribute to the overall Southeastern Community?
I would like to serve as a positive role model, especially to the women on our campus. Minorities understand many things that the majority culture never considers. For example, it is difficult for minorities to imagine themselves in a profession if they don’t have any role models in that profession. I hope that my presence here encourages women, who God has gifted academically, to pursue those dreams. I also hope that my voice and my perspective as a woman will contribute to overall health of our community. We live and work in a society that includes men and women. It is good for all of us to learn to hear and respect voices that are not identical to our own. God could have created a world of only men, but he did not. He created men and women (and all minorities) because we will flourish more together than in isolation. We will glorify him more by celebrating the variety he has given us than by ignoring it.
What does kingdom diversity mean to you?
Kingdom diversity reminds me that as we live on this side of heaven we should be working to make our world look more like heaven. In heaven people from every tribe, tongue, and nation will join together without prejudicial obstacles and worship the Lord. Kingdom diversity recognizes the beauty of our God-given differences but works to encourage us all to see people as individuals. When we decategorize people, we recognize their humanity. As E. Randolph Richards and Joseph R. Dodson explain in A Little Book for the New Bible Scholar, “Labels never work. Jesus will call us each by name.” That is kingdom diversity—the place where everybody has a name.