Faculty Profiles

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Brian Miller, Ph.D.

Professor of Sociology

On Faculty since 2009

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Dr. Miller's research interests include the American suburbs (particularly their development, culture, depictions in media, and housing), cities, religion and place, McMansions, social network site use among emerging adults, and American evangelicalism and culture. He teaches about these topics and also enjoys teaching Statistics and Research Methods courses. He enjoys spending time with his family, watching several local sports teams, playing the piano, and reading all sorts of nonfiction works. He also blogs about his sociological interests and observations at http://www.legallysociable.com.

University of Notre Dame, IN
Ph.D., Sociology, 2009

University of Notre Dame, IN
M.A., Sociology, 2006

Wheaton College
B.A., Sociology, Anthropology, 2004

  • Suburbs
  • Culture and Media
  • Young Adults and Social Media
  • McMansions
  • Cities
  • Housing
  • Religion and Place
  • American Sociological Association
  • Association for the Sociology of Religion
  • Society for the Scientific Study of Religion
  • Alpha Kappa Delta (Chapter Representative)

Blue surge in Georgia: What election shows about shifts in suburban values
Christian Science Monitor

“The suburbs are not just composed of wealthy conservatives, even though such communities do exist,” says Brian Miller, a Wheaton College, Ill., sociologist who studies the suburbs. The difference is that “there are now a variety of populations with a variety of concerns.” That means “local and national elections may [now] depend on reaching voters in middle suburbs who might go either way depending on the candidates, economic conditions [and] quality of life concerns.”
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Americans could be killing the McMansion for good
Business Insider

The term "McMansion" was clearly never meant as a compliment. Though there's no clear consensus on the word's exact genesis, it seems to have entered usage around the year 2000, shortly before the US economy saw the effects of the housing bubble. "Generally speaking, it's part of a collection of nouns, such as McWorld and McDonald-ization, that refer to things that are standardized and bland," Brian Miller, an associate professor of sociology at Wheaton College, told the Chicago Tribune in 2012.
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McMansions: What's the big deal?
Chicago Tribune

But what, exactly, is a McMansion, anyway? People who use the word seem to hold wildly varying interpretations of its meaning, according to Brian Miller, assistant professor of sociology at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Ill., who combed media references to the term and found few that could be construed as complimentary.
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Is that house down the street a ‘McMansion’? Depends on whom you ask
Dallas Morning News

[Miller] analyzed each appearance of the word, and concluded that its usage tended to imply "one of four general meanings: a large house, a relatively large house, a home with bad architecture or design, or a symbol for other issues, especially sprawl and consumerism."

The Wildly Variable Definition of 'McMansion'

Brian Miller is a sociologist at Wheaton College who's been studying housing and suburban development. He began to notice that the term McMansion was being used to describe wildly different things. "There's not a single process of McMansions going on," says Miller. "Sure, there are big houses across the United States, but not everyone's seeing them the same way or talking about them the same way."...
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Tim Tebow's gridiron faith sparks praise, comedic bits and criticism
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

One thing may be how visible Mr. Tebow is, said Brian Miller, an assistant professor of sociology at Wheaton College, a well-known evangelical school in Illinois. His practice of singing gospel songs while on the sidelines, taking a knee in prayer at the conclusion of the game, thanking Jesus Christ in postgame interviews and telling reporters "God bless," before leaving all are hard to ignore. "I think that ties to his outspokenness," Mr. Miller said. "Any time someone talks about religion that strongly, people will react strongly."...
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Passing Decades, Changing Structures: Continuity and Change in the Church Buildings of Three Denominations in the Chicago Region
Association for the Sociology of Religion meetings, Chicago, IL

Measuring Religion in the American Suburbs: How Surveys Involving Religion Inconsistently Determine Locations
American Sociological Association meetings, Chicago, IL

The Suburbanization of Protestant Churches in the Chicago Region, 1925-1969
Society for the Scientific Study of Religion meetings, Indianapolis, IN

From Father Knows Best to Desperate Housewives: Suburban Television Shows, 1950-2007
American Sociological Association meetings, San Francisco, CA

Follow the Informal rules to Limit Harm: Avoiding Negative Interactions When Using Social Network Sites. Miller, Brian J. and Peter Mundey.
American Sociological Association meetings, New York, NY

The Holy Suburbs: The Suburban Spatial Logic of American Evangelicals
American Sociological Association meetings, Denver, CO

Reading the Writing on the all: How Bible Reading Affects SNS Use Among Emerging Adults
Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, Milwaukee, WI

The Nexus between Sitting in the Pews and Using Facebook: How Religion Affects SNS Use
American Sociological Association Meeting, Las Vegas, NV

Not All Suburbs Are the Same: Examining Suburban Character
American Sociological Association Meeting, Atlanta, GA

A Two-Edged Sword: The Dynamic and Occasionally Surprising Religious Character of a Chicago Suburb
American Sociological Association Meeting, San Francisco, LA

  • First Year Seminar: The Suburban Good Life (CORE 101)
  • Introduction to Sociology (Soc 115)
  • The Suburban Church (Soc 220)
  • Contemporary Social Concerns (Soc 238)
  • Culture, Media, and Society (Soc 251)
  • American Suburbanization (Soc 359)
  • Urban Sociology (Soc 364)
  • Statistics (Soc 383)
  • Social Research (Soc 482)

Dr. Miller is working on projects that (1) explore the connections between American evangelicals and suburbs; (2) religion and place; and (3) suburban changes.

Property and Racial Exclusion in Illinois:Patterns and Practices from Colonial Slavery to Suburban Marginalization, 1720s-2010s [with Caroline M. Kisiel]. Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, 116(4): 9-47.

More Than 300 Teardowns Later: Patterns in Architecture and Location among Teardowns in Naperville, Illinois, 2008-2017. Journal of Urban Design, 27.3: 310-327.
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From 'Jungles of Terror' to 'God Will Begin a Healing in This City': Billy Graham and Evangelicals on Cities and Suburbs. Journal of Urban History, 48.2: 302-318.
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Christian Colleges in the Locational Wilderness: The Locations of CCCU Institution. Christian Higher Education, Miller, Brian J. and Benjamin E. Norquist, 20.4: 223-239.
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Faith in the Suburbs: Evangelical Christian Books about Suburban Life. Pp. 119-135 in The Routledge Handbook of Religion and Cities, Katie Day and Elise M. Edwards (editors). New York: Routledge.
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Review of Mulder, Mark T. and Gerado Marti. 2020. The Glass Church; Robert H. Schuller, the Crystal Cathedral, and the Strain of Megachurch Ministry. Review of Religious Research 62.4: 631-632.
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Religious Freedom and Local Conflict: Religious Buildings and Zoning Issues in the New York City Region, 1992-2017, Sociology of Religion 81.4: 462-484.
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Building Faith: A Sociology of Religious Structures, Brenneman, Robert and Brian J. Miller, New York: Oxford University Press.
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Emerging SNS Use: The Importance of Social Network Sites for Older American Emerging Adults, Journal of Youth Studies, Miller, Brian J. and Peter Mundey, 23.5: 613-630.
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Race, Town, and Gown: A White Christian College and a White Suburb Address Race, Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, Miller, Brian J. and David B. Malone, 112.3: 293-316.
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'Would Prefer a Trailer Park to a Large [Religious] Structure': Suburban Responses to Proposals for Religious Buildings, The Sociological Quarterly 60.2: 265-286.
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Still Standing After All These Years: The Presence and Internet Presentation of Religious Buildings in the Chicago Area, 1936-2016, Visual Studies 33.4: 326-342.
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A McMansion for the Suburban Mob Family: The Unfulfilling Single-Family Home of The Sopranos, Journal of Popular Film and Television 46.4 (2018): 207-218.
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Suburbanism, Oxford Bibliographies in Sociology. Oxford University Press. 2018.
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Growing Suburbs, Relocating Churches: The Suburbanization of Protestant Churches in the Chicago Region, 1925-1990, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 56.2 (2017): 342-364.
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From "I Love Lucy" in Connecticut to "Desperate Housewives’" Wisteria Lane: Suburban TV Shows, 1950-2007, Sociological Focus 50.3 (2017): 277-290.
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Measuring Religion in Different Spatial Contexts: How Surveys Involving Religion Inconsistently Determine Locations, Review of Religious Research 58.2 (2016): 285-304.
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When Bricks Matter: Four Arguments for the Sociological Study of Religious Buildings, Sociology of Religion, Brenneman, Robert and Brian J. Miller, 77.1 (2016): 82-101.
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Follow the Rules and No One Will Get Hurt: Performing Boundary Work to Avoid Negative Interactions When Using Social Network Sites, Information, Communication, and Society, Miller, Brian J. and Peter Mundey, 18.2 (2015): 187-201.
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A Small Suburb Becomes a Boomburb: Explaining Suburban Growth in Naperville, Illinois, Journal of Urban History 42.6 (2015): 1135-1152.
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Suburban America, American Immigration: An Encyclopedia of Political, Social, and Cultural Change, Second Edition, Pp. 844-849 edited by James Ciment and John Radzilowski Armonk, NY: Sharpe Reference. 2014

Review of Krattenmaker, Tom. 2013. "The Evangelicals You Don't Know: Introducing the Next Generation of Christians" | Sociology of Religion Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 75.2 (2014): 339-340.

Faith in the Age of Facebook: Exploring the Links Between Religion and Social Network Site Membership and Use, Sociology of Religion, Miller, Brian J., Peter Mundey, and Jonathan P. Hill, 74.2 (2013): 227-253.
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Not All Suburbs are the Same: The Role of Character in Shaping Growth and Development in Three Chicago Suburbs, Urban Affairs Review 49.5 (2013): 652-677.
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Competing Visions of the American Single Family Home: Defining McMansions in the New York Times and Dallas Morning News, 2000-2009, Journal of Urban History 38.6 (2012): 1094-1113.
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The Struggle Over Redevelopment at Cabrini-Green, 1989-2004, Journal of Urban History 34.6 (2008): 944-960.
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