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Joe Miles: Social Justice Advocate, Pez Dispenser Collector, Chicago Pizza Lover

Joe MilesAt UT: Miles is a counseling psychologist and associate professor of psychology who has been at UT since 2010. His research focuses on multicultural education, social justice, and issues affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. He is passionate about helping students be competent as researchers who work with people across different groups and ethnicities. As such, he creates intergroup dialogues in his classes and through practicums to provide students the opportunity to practice and improve those skills. This teaches them how to advocate for others and help bring about systemic change in organizations.

Why he chose this field: The Illinois native was drawn to the field of counseling psychology because of its strong focus on social justice in all forms, including addressing health disparities to improve the quality of life for individuals and communities.

Miles is a member of the Community Health Council, a collaboration between the City of Knoxville, Knox County, the Town of Farragut, and the Knox County Health Department. “I am the chair of the policy and advocacy committee. We look at policies at the local and state levels that will affect the health of our communities.”

Outside interests: He collects snow globes, Pez dispensers, and matchbooks. “I’ve collected them since I was a kid,” he said of the snow globes and Pez dispensers. “I think I got my collecting bug from my grandmother.”

A Wonder Woman Pez dispenser is a favorite. He also has a Pez dispenser of every US president from George Washington to TS Barack Obama.

He ramped up his matchbook collection several years ago when smoking was outlawed in restaurants, because he assumed restaurant matchbooks would become obsolete. His grandmother, also a collector, gave him a box of them, which included matchbooks from various hair salons and his parents’ wedding.

Favorite food: Lou Malnati’s deep dish pizza from Chicago. “My parents used to mail order and send it to me when I was in college.”

If I didn’t do this, I’d: Be an elementary school teacher. When it came to settling on a career, “I went back and forth between psychology and education,” Miles said. “I like working with people and I like learning about myself, so it seemed like a good fit. Fortunately, I found a job where I can do all of that and more.”

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