Peter Miller, a computer science and applied mathematics major, graduated from Goshen College in 2011. Today, he runs CodePurple, a company that provides on-campus opportunities for students to practice programming.
What is your job?
My technical classification is an IT (Information Technology) intern. I tell people that I’m an education technology specialist.
How would you describe CodePurple?
CodePurple serves both the students and the college institution by providing support for things that we don’t have existing paradigms for dealing with. This would be most visible with the departmental website management project. There was a need over in Communications and Marketing, and I said, “I can help you fill that need without building a new institutional model for dealing with it.” The web development project has the potential to bring more students into the program and change how our web space exists. I wish I could have done things like that as a student, so it makes me really happy that I can fill that role now that I’m staff.
What’s your earliest memory with computers?
It’s not my memory, but my dad tells me this story all the time. He’d been working all night on this paper for his master’s and he violated the principle of “always save.” Suddenly, his screen goes black, and he’s horrified. Then, I crawl up from behind the computer at 3 years old, restart his computer and recover the entire paper.
I didn’t really get into computing until my senior year of high school when, on a whim, I took a class on programming. It was fun, I loved it. I met awesome people and I now have a job for it.
How did you end up with this job?
Quite honestly, what happened was that I graduated in three years. I had to start thinking about my future a full year before most people in my class. My third year, I came back from Egypt and got really depressed because it was winter time and all my friends were gone, so I just stared at the walls for a month. School started back up again, and I was not ready to make the decision with what I would be doing with my life. Michael Sherer (director of ITS) offered me a job for over the summer, and then Michael Sherer offered me another job for the fall. He kept giving me jobs, and I wasn’t sure what else to do.
Do you think everyone should study math?
I think our society is very math deficient, but the problem is not that people need to be taking calculus. Ever since the Cold War, we’ve designed our math curriculum around getting people into calculus so that they can get into engineering so we can beat the Russians, which isn’t working for us. Math isn’t that esoteric. It’s hard, but to be excellent at anything is hard. What makes me really sad is that math is so decontextualized that you go through school and think it’s just about memorizing forms. No, it’s about a formal way of attacking problems and quantifying information and recognizing patterns.
What do you do for fun outside of work?
Swing dancing is pretty core to my identity. For example, I’m driving 500 miles this weekend to go swing-dancing in two different locations.
When I’m mentally and emotionally well, it’s often defined by how much programming I’m doing in my free time and how much I’m cooking in my free time. When I’m doing those things, it’s a good litmus test for whether I’m a happy, functioning person.
– By Kate Yoder ’15