College’s First Black President on Digital Equity, Systemic Change in COVID

Dr. Miles Davis wants to use his platform as first Black president of Linfield college to affect systemic change. Even as COVID-19 drastically changes the face of education, Dr. Davis is determined to create the next generation of leaders.

Dr. Miles Davis, In the Arena


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Miles K. Davis’ path to becoming the first Black president of Linfield College was not a straight line. While raised in poverty, his parents instilled in Davis a strong belief in the transformational power of education, which led him to go to college. Afterwards, he served time in the U.S. Navy, earned an MBA and worked several jobs in the corporate world. It was not until a friend mentioned The PhD Project to him in 1994 that Davis begin to consider returning to academia.



Davis was drawn to the program’s mission of increasing the number of underrepresented minorities with PhDs in business to affect systemic change. He went through his entire undergraduate career without a single Black professor. The PhD Project gave him the possibility that he could become a professor with a vision of doing something more meaningful with his life.

“It was being a part of The PhD Project where I saw the possibility of becoming a professor and doing something more than making another deal in corporate America,” he says. "It would nurture my spirit and soul and my commitment to helping others grow and make a difference in the lives of people.” Davis went on to become the Project's first college dean and president.

Dr. Miles Davis is now the first Black president of Linfield College and, as president, he must navigate the complexities of COVID-19. While thousands of schools across the nation have transitioned into remote learning, It is not as simple as making sure everyone has the necessary technology, he explains.

Switching to distance learning relies on several underlying assumptions, according to Davis. Students have a home in which they can do online education, and they have and can afford Internet connection or a cellular data plan that can supplement it. Distance learning also takes away the variety of other opportunities that colleges and universities offer, like a reliable source of the next meal or the diverse social interaction that feeds intellectual interest and engagement. But Davis acknowledges that the issues are bigger than just Linfield College.

“Our republic cannot stand if it doesn’t have educated citizens," he says. "We need people who can think, we need people to engage, and that’s part of my calling: I want to fight the battles. It gets me up every morning.”

Listen to the full episode to hear the inspirational conversation with Dr. Miles Davis on making systemic change, taking responsibility for your decisions and exploring the scientific world with quantum physics. 

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