Andrew Millison considers himself part instructor and part administrator.
He's created his own course content and continually updates and refines it, and he prides himself on facilitating a smooth and rich experience for each student.
Andrew works directly with his students and also manages a team of instructors, so every one of their students gets significant one-on-one attention, even in a class over 100 students.
Andrew has taught permaculture for over twenty years, has a Masters in Horticultural Preservation and is recognized as a world-renowned permaculture expert.
To get to know Andrew better, here are 10 'getting to know you' questions.
1.) Why did you decide to get into the field of Permaculture?
It was less of a decision than a calling. I recognized the problems of the world and the capacity for creative and positive solutions. I wanted to do work that made sense and would enhance my life and the lives of those around me.
I love plants and nature and community, and always dreamed of building beautiful places where people could evolve to their highest potential and nature is honored and enhanced.
2.) Are you currently working on any research projects? If so, what about?
Not in any official capacity, although I have several topics I am always working on. One is research into the world's best Permaculture sites. I am always studying what is going on and where and how. I also do a lot of experimenting with plants architecture, creating living fences of willow or hazelnut, trellising grapes on living arbors of apple or plum. I continue to learn more every season that I prune and manage my gardens.
I also do a lot of research into water rights and the siting and construction of reservoirs.
3.) What do you like most about teaching Permaculture online?
It's incredible to get people from all over the world together in one forum. Students design their own properties in my class, so we have people from temperate Europe, tropical Central America, the Arid Western US and more, all doing the same assignments and posting and sharing their work. It's very fascinating.
4.) What do you see as the primary benefits of online learning?
The thing I like about online learning is that it is distilled down. It's all about content. All we have to judge a student by is their actual work and participation in the class. There is no time lost in transit or idle talk. We just get right down to business! Now, this could also be the worst thing about online learning for some, but for me, it is an efficiency of time and energy versus an in-person class.
But that is only valuable for a particular kind of student. Some people really need face-to-face learning, and I respect that venue as well. I teach in-person classes and enjoy them for different reasons.
5.) How do you build a genuine connection with students who, in many cases, you’ll never meet in person?
My class is unique in that students are designing a site for the main activity that is a culmination of all their assignments. So we really do get to know students on somewhat of a personal level; where they live and what their dreams and visions are for their lives. So the connection with students is inherent in the course structure and content.
As I mentioned before, my classes are high-connection between instructor and student, and I have a number of other very competent people working on the class with me, who are all fairly masterful at the design process and guide the student through it.
6.) How have you evolved as an educator since you began teaching classes online with PACE/OSU?
I've gotten a lot more structured. I bring hundreds of people through my courses each year, so there needs to be clearly defined expectations and grading systems and clear content delivery.
My course structure has evolved a lot to handle the wide diversity of people who come through the courses. I have a much more smooth and structured learning system then I did seven years ago when I started with OSU. And I'm proud of that!
7.) What’s the best advice you can give to PACE students?
I don't want to sound cliche, but 'do your best.' I've been doing this for a while, and I've seen many students move through, of all different levels of abilities, experience, and available time and energy. Instructors can see when a student is putting their all into a course, regardless of what they come into the course with. The effort and determination of a sincere student comes through.
8.) What are your favorite activities outside of work?
My hobbies overlap with my work tremendously. I love gardening and building my Permaculture homestead. I also love to hike in nature, float down the river, and spend time with my kids. I play guitar every day, and I also like cooking.
9.) Do you have any students who have stood out?
I have a lot of students who have stood out, honestly. I have had a lot of really amazing people come through my courses. One student who already had a farm and just took the information and ran with it is Marianne Cicala. Check out her work at Crickets Cove Farm.
In my class, it's easy to see stand-out students because they're the ones that take the course material and do something with it!
10.) If you had to create a soundtrack for your life, what’s the first song on the list?
Love is My Religion by Ziggy Marley.