Having taught sociology for over 30 years, Professor Miyahara has shown that humans are social creatures and through his experiences shows that, like him, we all are curious.
“Professor Miyahara can put people at ease, and he is funny in a positive, constructive way,” APU Associate Sociology Professor Nori Henk said.
As a previous student in several of Professor David Miyahara’s classes, I can say from experience that he has a good sense of humor, and he is a good teacher that helps students like me feel at ease in class.
In our interview, he explained through his teachings that humans are social creatures that are constantly connected in some shape or form. Hearing his personal story showed me that he sees that at heart we are social creatures that tend to be very curious.
Born in Los Angeles in 1964, he spent his first four years of life in the Silver Park District before his family moved to the Monterey Park District.
The family moved to be around people who were of similar backgrounds and ethnicity. Asian Americans were much more populous in Monterey Park compared to his previous home, so Miyahara grew up around many others who were also Asian. This along with having an identical twin brother helped him have a fun childhood life as he entered high school in the Montebello Unified School District.
Throughout his high school days, he didn’t know what he was interested in pursuing. It wasn’t until he went to college that he picked psychology as his major due to his interest in human behavior. This began to change when he took a couple of sociology classes. The topic fit his curious personality, and through these classes he became more interested in the field of sociology.
This transition was further aided by one of his sociology professors, whom Miyahara came to view as a great mentor. “I had this really good mentor who was one of the professors in my sociology classes, and he told me, ‘You know, you could go to graduate school in sociology if you’re interested in that.’ I started exploring it, and I realized, ‘You know, this would be good,’” Miyahara said.
Miyahara started his teaching career teaching part-time at De Anza Community College in Cupertino while he was a graduate student at Stanford University.
“For the last two, or three years in graduate school, I was teaching two to three classes as an adjunct part-timer. I was teaching two to three classes a quarter at DeAnza College and enjoyed it.”
He also was a teacher’s assistant for Introduction to Sociology and Political and Education Sociology at Stanford.
From there, he went on to teach at several different colleges like East LA College, LA City College and Cal State LA. His courses focused mainly on sociology.
After those positions, APU’s dean of the School of Theology contacted him to help fill a position that had become available due to a sociology professor leaving for a year due to a complication in the department. The dean found out about him through friends from the Japanese Free Methodist Conference.
“He said, ‘Do you want to teach sociology for us?’ And so I became part of a small group of people who covered the four classes that this person who left was out for that first year. I was an adjunct here, and then, during that year, they said, ‘Well, look, you know, why don’t you put your application forward to replace this guy?’ And so I did that, and then I got hired.” Miyahara said.
Since then, he has stayed as part of the Sociology Department for the past 30+ years teaching sociology and some ethnic history courses. Miyahara described the journey as being “God-engineered moments,” which have propelled him to happily continue to serve as one of APU’s sociology professors to this day.
Miyahara described why he became interested in the field saying, “When I took my first social psychology class, I learned about peer pressure, and I learned about the effects and media and external kinds of forces that were very compelling to me. And so what I realized is that this explains a lot about why people do things, especially why people do the things that they don’t think twice about. They take it for granted, you know, norms. The norms that we have as a society dictate a lot of the things we do, you know, without even thinking about it.”
This opened the door for him to let his curiosity spread far and wide into who we are as a society. It also allowed him to share his gifts and talents by teaching a subject he is passionate about to newer generations.
“And so when these students graduated, I always felt pride that I was able to help them to be able to get through this. And some of them have, you know, kind of come back to express things that you know, with ease, you know, like ‘I didn’t think I’d ever be able to get through if you know, you hadn’t kind of provided some support and guidance and other things,’” said Miyahara
He has been commended by both students and other professors as having a good sense of humor and for excelling as a professor.
“He has a good sense of humor. A lot of comments from evaluations by students showed that Miyahara can make them laugh,” Department Chair and Professor Richard Robison said while describing Professor Miyahara’s best trait.
“He’s got a great sense of humor. He tells really fun stories. He’s also very good at explaining difficult things and difficult sociological concepts. He’s particularly good at explaining statistics; That’s his area,” Professor Nori Henk said while reminiscing about her time as his student.
Miyahara shows in his teachings and as a great example of how social we are that we influence each other without even realizing it. Not only that, but also we are curious about things we don’t understand, and we have the desire to learn and share with others.