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Seattle University


A Teacher Par Excellence

Written by Mike Thee
February 15, 2012

Paul Milan, associate professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures, has been named the 2012-2013 McGoldrick Fellow, Provost Isiaah Crawford announced last month. The most prestigious honor Seattle University confers on its faculty, the fellowship recognizes faculty for their concern for students and commitment to Jesuit education.

"Paul Milan has been a leader in global education for decades, well before many others recognized its value," said David Powers, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

A graduate of Seattle University, Milan began his teaching career in 1966. He served as chair of the Department of Modern Languages and Cultures (1982-88) and coordinator of the International Studies program (1999-2005). Milan co-founded and co-directs the university's French in France program in Grenoble, France, and, for the past five years, has served as the faculty director for Xavier Global House. In this role he worked with Housing and Residential Life and the Fundación de Esperanza de México to establish the Xavier Global Outreach Program and developed an interdisciplinary core course that deals with contemporary perspectives on the United States-Mexico border.  

The Commons: What does it mean to you to have been named the 2012-2013 McGoldrick Fellow?

Paul Milan:  When you look at the list of all the people who have been chosen as McGoldrick Fellows, they are among the most outstanding faculty we have at Seattle U, so it's an honor to be included in that group, but it's also humbling because we have so many other excellent teachers at Seattle U who could easily be chosen as McGoldrick Fellows.

The Commons:  Did you know Father McGoldrick?

Paul Milan:  Yes, I did. When I was a student, Father McGoldrick would be on campus, and he would always stop students and ask them how they were doing. He was elderly at that point, but still active on campus and very much a presence. He was an extraordinary person.

The Commons:  How did you decide to become a college professor?

Paul Milan:  I started out at Seattle University as a math major and had to take a required French course. I had an excellent French teacher and was inspired by her to go to France. Once I spent my junior year in France studying at the Sorbonne, the rest was sort of history. I just fell in love with the language, fell in love with the culture, fell in love with the people and decided to become a French teacher. I did my M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Washington and started teaching here in 1966.

The Commons:  Did you always have the global mindset that you do?

Paul Milan:  No, not at all. I was raised in a small town in southwestern Washington (Kelso), and then my father was transferred to Tacoma-he worked for the Internal Revenue Service. When I came to Seattle University, I had never been out of the state of Washington other than to visit relatives in Oregon, so my world was fairly circumscribed. Going to France changed all that. I was probably one of the first students who did study abroad at Seattle U.

The Commons:  What in your career at SU so far has brought you the most joy?

Paul Milan:  I was talking with a friend of mine the other day and telling him in many ways I've had a series of six or seven careers at Seattle U. Being a teacher of French has brought me a great deal of joy-I'm teaching a French 225 class this quarter and look forward to going to that class every day; it's such a great group of students. So that part, being a professor, has been a constant in my career here.

I had the good fortune to be involved in establishing study abroad programs. I was one of the co-founders of the French in France program with Max Marinoni, who's now retired and remains a good friend of mine. The French in France program is celebrating its 40th year and is the longest running study abroad program here at Seattle U.

Being the department chair was very much a learning experience to try to become an academic leader and work with my colleagues. So I enjoyed that, as well.

As coordinator of international studies I got to work with people in history, political science, economics, modern languages. It's a program that's experienced a tremendous amount of growth-I think there are close to 200 majors in the program.

Being director of Xavier Global House, and working on the idea of a globally themed residence hall has been very rewarding, as has developing the Xavier Global Outreach Program.

I've also had the opportunity to work with the Collegia Program since its inception under Father Sullivan. I worked for a long time in the Lynn Collegium and now I've gravitated to the Tekakwitha Collegium. That's a place where you really get to see a concern for students and the ability of the Collegia Program to create community among commuter students so they have a home away from home. What's rewarding to me is to see the friendships these students form over their time at Seattle U.

I've had a lot of very satisfying parts to my time at Seattle U and feel blessed. Really blessed.

The Commons:  Being a professor here for 46 years and counting, you've witnessed a lot of change. What stands out for you most?

Paul Milan:  The growth of Seattle U is probably the most striking thing. We have more quality academic programs, the addition of the law school, the growth in study abroad programs and international education. And then you look at the campus growth-I remember a library that was on the third floor of the Administration Building. I remember students moving the books from that facility to the new Lemieux Library. And then to see the renewal of the library and the learning commons-I think we have now a state-of-the-art facility of which the university and our students can be very proud.

Looking back, Seattle University has been blessed with a number of presidents like Father Sullivan and like Father Sundborg who have provided the leadership and the financial stability for us to grow. They've built up a credibility with the community and a stability at Seattle U that allows us to do the things that we can do-there are always challenges, but in general, I think we have to be very proud of what we've been able to do, certainly since the time I've been here. It's extraordinary.

The Commons:  What do you like to do in your free time?

Paul Milan:  I enjoy spending time with my family-my wife Nancy, our two daughters Carla and Kate, and our four grandchildren, so that's something I feel very blessed about.

I used to be more athletic than I am now, but most weekends you can find me walking around Green Lake. It really is to me one of those spiritual places in Seattle. Heidegger talks about these places where heaven and earth meet, and I think Green Lake is one of those. I still bike back and forth to school when the weather's good. But other things like basketball and tennis, I've to sort of had to give in to the process of age (laughs).

I love teaching at Seattle U. Last night, I went to a concert where members of our faculty Quinton Morris played violin and Ross Hauck sang, accompanied by a pianist. It was just an amazing evening. So being in a university community and being able to have these tremendous experiences is, for me, a privilege.