Many people start the process of choosing a career as young adults, but not Jeffery Mio, a professor in the Department of Psychology & Sociology. The grandson of an immigrant, Mio knew as a young boy that he wanted to work in the field of psychology.
His grandfather emigrated from a fishing village in Japan and wanted his children and grandchildren to become doctors. “Immigrants consider a doctor as the ultimate profession in society, because saving lives means that the host culture has to accept you,” Mio says.
“My earliest memory was my grandfather sitting me on his knee and saying in his broken English, ‘What do you want to be? You want to be a doctor, don’t you?'” Mio says with a laugh as he recalls his grandfather’s persistent coaxing. “I kept resisting and I felt all this pressure to choose when I was a little kid.”
In fifth grade, he took an enrichment class that focused on the social sciences. Particularly drawn to optical illusions, he became interested in psychology, and he proudly told his grandfather that he wanted to be a psychologist when he grew up.
Mio studied psychology at UCLA and Cal State Long Beach and earned a doctoral degree in clinical psychology in 1984 from the University of Illinois at Chicago. After completing an internship in clinical psychology, he steered his energy toward teaching and research. Mio came to Cal Poly Pomona in 1994 as an associate professor and director of the psychology master’s program. During his tenure, he has become a professor whose concern for his students has earned him wide-ranging respect.
“He is very interested in the professional development of students, who conduct research with him and present with him at professional conferences every year,” says psychology Professor Lori Barker Hackett.
In fact, Mio authored a textbook with Hackett and one of his graduate students, Jaydee Santos Tumambing. “Multicultural Psychology: Understanding Our Diverse Communities” deals with topics such as racism, worldviews and communication, racial/cultural identity development and immigration.
Mio is no stranger to racism. During World War II, his family experienced it first-hand when they were forced to sell their restaurant and belongings two days before being sent to Manzanar, an internment camp for Japanese Americans during World War II. As a child, he heard the stories about the internment and the racism they experienced. He developed an understanding and sensitivity that was necessary to address the issue in the multicultural textbook.
As a faculty member at Cal Poly Pomona, Mio supports campus clubs and professional organizations, such as the Western Psychological Association, Asian Pacific Faculty, Staff & Student Association, and Psi Chi, the national honor society for psychology students.
Fourth-year psychology student Drea Aoun says Mio helps students by providing career advice, attending Psi Chi banquets and encouraging student membership and involvement. “He takes much pride in Psi Chi members and what our club is about, and it makes me feel really good to know that a professor with his prestige is supportive of our club and participates in our events,” she says.
In the fall, Mio was recognized for his achievements and contributions to the university and community, receiving the George P. Hart Award for Outstanding Faculty Leadership, the university’s highest faculty award. He was nominated by Dr. Dao Q. Nguyen, psychologist and group coordinator for Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) on campus. In her nomination letter, she says Mio is a role model and leader on campus, in the community and in the psychology profession. “Dr. Mio is always willing to help yet another student, faculty, department, committee, organization or association.”
Many faculty members share in Nguyen’s respect and admiration, describing him as a tireless worker who eagerly gives credit to others. “Dr. Mio works cooperatively with others and always does more than his fair share, often behind the scenes and without seeking any acknowledgment,” says Laurie A. Roades, professor and chair of the Department of Psychology & Sociology.
In addition to being a serious scholar, Mio also brings a sense of humor to the class.
Students really enjoy having him as a professor and encourage their friends to take his classes, Aoun says. “He really enjoys teaching and makes his classes fun enough to where students actually come because they want to, not because they have to,” Aoun says. “He is very funny and laughs at his own jokes, which only makes him that much funnier to listen to.”
Mio’s scholarship has produced numerous books, articles, newsletters, video and other multimedia material. As one of two principal consultants and an on-air presenter, he received a local Emmy Award in 2002 for “Psychology: the Human Experience,” a public television educational video course on introductory psychology. Mio is also a member of the Institutional Review Board, the Faculty Center for Professional Development Advisory Committee and the Executive Graduate Council.