Staff Spotlight: David Miles

Submitted by Arts & Sciences Web Team on

Administrator of Program Operations for French/Italian and Spanish/Portuguese Divisions

David Miles is a quiet man. His desk is piled with papers, two computer screens are lit up, email alerts beep every couple of minutes and his phone rings at about the same rate. And yet, he remains calm and focused on the conversation at hand. What’s his secret?

Miles said he “…basically grew up on the UW Campus.” Five-year-old David played on campus each week after his family attended the University Friends meeting, then held in a Meeting House where Gould Hall now stands. His Quaker roots led to a desire to serve and contribute to the greater good through his work and his life.

After graduating from UW with a degree in Russian, David worked in Philadelphia with the American Friends Service Committee’s World Affairs Program whose task was to provide outreach and relief to South Africa and Puerto Rico.

Returning to Seattle, Miles worked as a secretary in UW’s Slavic Department where he stayed for 25 years, advancing to Administrative Secretary and then Administrative Assistant. In 2000, Miles took on additional responsibilities for the Linguistics Department and then, in 2001, applied for and got his current job, Administrator for Program Operations for the Spanish and Portuguese Studies and the French and Italian Studies Divisions.

Miles thrives on the challenges of keeping two divisions running smoothly including budgetary responsibility, supervising five staff members, and answering to two supervisors. “There is always a unique problem to solve, and different people to work with,” explained Miles, “and the new students each year keep it fresh.”

But why these two divisions? “I want to contribute to improving the world and helping people understand each other,” he explained. “Language is the chief way we communicate,” said Miles whose interest in language began in grade school. Attending a primarily African American school, his brother became fluent in what was then called “Black English” and could switch back and forth to the delight and amazement of strangers. “I learned that there was more than one kind of English,” he said.

“When we learn another language we learn about our similarities and our differences and we learn to accept and work with other people,” said Miles who believes that learning another language also helps one speak and understand one’s own language and culture better. “By being around language learning, you can continue learning forever.”

When not behind his paper-laden desk in Padelford Hall, Miles co-coordinates the Hawkins Garden P-Patch. More comfortable as a helper, Miles explained that someone had to coordinate it so he stepped up. “My Dad grew up on a farm,” said Miles, “so gardening is in my blood.” All three of his siblings have done something agriculturally related at some point in their lives. Miles’ tie sports a charming pattern of pea pods. “One of my favorites!” he said. “A Goodwill tie, made in Italy -- with a garden theme!”

David Miles with his accordion

Miles and his accordion

Miles’ face lights up when he talks about his other passion: music. Miles, whose parents listened to music in many languages, plays accordion with UW’s Klezmer band. Klezmer is American music that grew out of Eastern European and Jewish music and has ties with Romany, or Gypsy, music. Miles has sung in a Balkan men’s chorus, a Russian Chorus and with the Seattle Peace Chorus. When does he have time to practice? “One hour a day,” he said. “After I wash the dishes!”

Perhaps the secret to staying calm and focused is doing what you love and sticking with it. For David Miles that translates to language, service, music and gardening. And, of course, an occasional foray to Goodwill for some really cool ties.



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