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Featured Faculty: Sarah Cusimano Miles

Sarah Cusimano Miles, Not So Much A Whisper

Sarah Cusimano Miles, originally from Gadsden, is an associate professor in the Art and Design Department. She currently has a solo exhibition called Not So Much a Whisper at the Gadsden Museum of Art, where it will remain displayed until September 30th. Drawing inspiration from women’s ability to navigate through the challenges brought by life’s encounters with agency, grace, dignity, and strength, the exhibit depicts the complexities of the contrasting characteristics of women.

With a BS in Psychology from the University of Alabama, a BFA in Studio Art from JSU, and an MFA in Photography from the University of Alabama, Miles is in her 16th year teaching at JSU. In the department, Miles teaches Introduction to Photography, Alternative Processes in Photography, advanced independent studies in photography, Black and White Photography, Advanced Photography, and graduate courses in photo media and other special topics.

Her favorite part of her job is getting to see when students become empowered by their new knowledge. “Watching the transformation in them as they push the envelope of their capabilities, challenge their own perceptions, and embrace the potential of awareness consistently inspires me and emphasizes that my own learning is far from over,” she said.

She also loves the interactions with her students in a collaborative learning environment. Through discussions and explorations, students have the opportunity to gain knowledge from others’ perspectives, and as the dynamic composition of the groups changes with each semester, different conversations lead to different outcomes.

Her favorite part of the Art and Design Department as a whole is the close-knit relationship between the faculty members. As a rather small department, they are able to more easily develop a camaraderie and support system. “This mutual respect enables us to discuss and collectively resolve challenges that may arise, and, ultimately, it overflows to the students and enhances their experiences in our programs,” she said. “Of course, seeing student artwork from all of the classes as I walk down the hall always makes me smile.”

Along with her exhibition, other notable achievements of Miles include the selection of one of her photographs to be the cover image for Creative Quarterly, an international journal that promotes the best work in graphic design, illustration, photography, and fine arts. As a winner in the professional photography category, one of her photos was published in the winter issue. The process of choosing a cover image consists of the editors choosing a cover from all of the images submitted by the winners of each category.

“It was such an honor and surprise to have my photograph on the cover!” Miles said.

In her spare time, Miles enjoys spending time with her family as well as going camping, hiking, and kayaking. During the summer, she enjoys gardening. With two active dogs, she says they are always kept busy.

When asked what advice she would give to one of her students, she said, “Make the most of the time you have in college because you will miss it when that time is done.” She also said to not be afraid, to ask questions, and to take advantage of the opportunities you come across. “Embrace and create your own challenges during your time in a supportive academic environment. You may not remember every formula or every date, but you will learn a way of thinking that will enrich your life for the rest of your years,” she advised.

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