When Chad Miller, Ph.D., joined the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture at Colorado State University (CSU) in January, he had just finished his fall semester teaching commitment at Kansas State University (K-State), where he had been for 12 years. He had only a few weeks to pack up and move to Colorado in time to start the spring semester as the new assistant professor.
“It felt like a firehose in the face during the first couple of weeks,” he laughingly admits.
CSU Position is Where His Passions Meet
A self-confessed plant geek, Miller’s love for plants started at about age 12 while growing up in northwest Wisconsin. Yet, he has two other great passions: love of teaching and love of learning.
“I really enjoy helping others learn,” he says. As an undergraduate at University of Wisconsin-River Falls, his adviser and mentor, Dr. Terry Ferriss – a CSU alumnus – noticed his love of teaching and encouraged Miller to consider teaching at the university level. That meant furthering his own education, so he went on to earn both an M.S. and Ph.D. in ornamental horticulture from Cornell University.
His talent as an undergraduate educator has been recognized with several awards including two national USDA Excellence in College and University Teaching in the Food and Agricultural Sciences Awards, along with the K-State Presidential Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2020, to name just a few. Miller has already dived into his teaching role at CSU, currently teaching plant identification classes.
Miller’s appointment at CSU includes more than teaching. The position specifies a 3-pronged role: research, 40%; extension/outreach/service, 30%; and teaching, 30%.
“As I move into my research and extension roles, I see how related they are. I’m very excited to meet with green industry stakeholders and look forward to the new role as director of the annuals and perennials trial gardens. Dr. Jim Klett, who previously oversaw the trials, has done so much work with the gardens – creating a national attraction – which is one of several reasons I was drawn to this position.”
Miller plans to tie all the roles together. “I want to integrate research and outreach with teaching so that students are exposed to the purpose and benefits of trials, research and outreach,” he says.
“I’m excited about engaging with the Colorado green industry and look forward to connecting and interacting with more stakeholders,” Miller says.
His research will be inspired by his experiences in greenhouse and landscape plant production. He received a fellowship during his graduate program that allowed him to spend a year in the Netherlands doing floriculture and breeding research. This research followed two earlier internship experiences; one in the Netherlands – a country he has grown to love – working with with Royal Van Zanten, a commercial greenhouse producing cut flowers, and another with Pan American Seeds in California conducting plant breeding. He looks forward to applying what he has learned and focusing his research priorities on developing plants for the landscape that are more adapted to stresses, including plants that require less water, and are heat and cold tolerant.
In his teaching role, don’t be surprised if he looks for ways to encourage non-horticulture students to take a plant course. “At K-State, there was a ‘Plants in Society’ class for non-majors. It was a fun and engaging course introducing students to the importance of horticulture plants,” Miller says. Miller was accompanied on his winter move to Fort Collins by his partner, two corgis and seven chickens, and managed to find housing that suited the diverse ‘family.’