Educational Leadership and Policy Studies PhD student Pat Mills is excited about expanding his dissertation research, focused on leadership in the classroom and developing a pipeline of leaders to better serve students. Mills, a retired Naval Flight Officer and former aerospace program manager, is well suited for the project. He’s on this third career, and focused on ways to build the next generation of leaders so the next generation of students have the tools to succeed.

Mills landed at Morgridge College of Education after he found out he could still use the funds allocated to him through the Serviceman’s Readjustment Act of 1944, more commonly known as the G.I. Bill. Mills’ wife spent her career as a teacher, and he knew the struggles and challenges she faced. He also knew that creating leaders requires creating a leadership culture. He was accepted to both the University of Denver and the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs and decided to make the drive to Denver.

As he explains, “I already knew the political bent of Colorado Springs and wanted to better understand attitudes in Denver. Not surprisingly, I am a different generation than most people attending DU. I wanted to do something to challenge myself. I tell my kids to always lean into life by taking risks, so I needed to set the example.”

At Morgridge College, we could not be happier he choose us. Mills’ long history in the military allows him to have a different perspective on educational leadership than more traditional students. As part of his dissertation research, he is studying teachers who came through the Troops for Teachers program, a program established in 1993 to help military veterans begin new careers as K-12 educators. So far he has observed veterans in both public and private classrooms and they have the same thing in common: they address each student as sir or ma’am, they acknowledge each student and engage them in the classroom discussion, and when class is over, they shake their students’ hands on the way out the door. These interactions, Mills believes, empowers the students to rise to the expectation of the teacher, making the students successful and the teachers leaders of tomorrow. His is excited to continue his research and see where it leads him in the next year.

In the meantime, Mills was recently awarded a Governor’s Executive Internship in Policy and Research and spends his days balancing college, policy, and family. His three children, two in their late 20s and one in high school, as well as his wife, are his support system. Between his studies and time at the Colorado state capitol, Mills is one busy retiree and that is exactly how he likes it.

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