Meet Lamont Miles, electrical engineer. He teaches one course at Gonzaga nearly every semester, works at Avista Utilities and catches most home basketball games. Nothing unusual so far? Mind-bending as it may sound, Miles is a member of GU’s Class of 2003. He turned 26 in May and has taught for Gonzaga’s School of Engineering and Applied Science on and off for more than five years.
He’s not the youngest college professor out there. Google around a bit and you’ll find a scattering of 19-year-olds in academia. Miles enrolled at Gonzaga when he was 16 and graduated in three years. Avista hired him shortly thereafter, and he began teaching the following year. Miles combines a gentle maturity, a dedication to his students and a shade of amazement at his own good fortune.
“I jumped at the chance when the late Dr. Juan Bala approached me,” Miles said. “It was an amazing opportunity.”
Department chair Associate Professor Vladimir Labay remembers Miles as a very bright, hard-working student. “He is devoted to his teaching, and the students have always given him very good reviews and evaluations.”
Most years, Miles teaches sophomore-level engineering classes and labs. Since Dr. Bala’s death in 2009, the young instructor has been assigned senior-level power classes.
“I’ll never forget my first day teaching,” he said. “I was 20. My students were 20 and older. They thought I was a fellow student at first. There were a fair number of snickers when they discovered I was the ‘professor.’ But over the course of the next couple years as a teacher I changed and became more comfortable. I found myself in a unique position – being one who could really relate to the students.” He also knows his students’ engineering background down to the finest detail, because they are taking the same classes he took not so many years ago.
Graduate John Choma (’10) radiates enthusiasm for this teacher: “Lamont’s only a few years older than me, but he has the knowledge and demeanor of someone much older and more experienced,” he said. “In class, Lamont quickly demonstrated that he knew a lot about electricity. It was like learning from a wise, old professor trapped in a younger body.”
Choma found that the young instructor’s experience in industry benefitted students. “For instance, Miles integrates the modern practices dictated by national industry standards into his lectures and homework. He also passes on his knowledge of the latest trends in renewable energies and Smart Grid technologies,” Choma said. Miles is working on a master’s degree in electrical engineering at the University of Idaho.
“I love being a part of the Gonzaga family and I hope to continue teaching for many years, even after students stop looking at me funny because of my age,” Miles said.