November 11, 2021 | Erin Bluvas, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bridget Miller found her niche 20 years ago. After growing up in a small town in rural Nebraska, she attended bachelor’s and graduate programs at big universities, and her passion for higher education became a life-long pursuit.
“I’ve always worked at large, public institutions,” Miller says. “I love the library, the sports, the study abroad programs, the clubs. There are so many things you can do in college to figure out what you want to do with the rest of your life. I still get to come to college every day, and that’s a pretty cool job.”
Miller discovered public health at the same time she was experiencing her first foray into college life – during her undergraduate studies at the University of Nebraska. While she was exploring the many perks of campus life, she realized she had some elective hours at her disposal. She took exercise physiology and exercise testing/prescription and was hooked.
“I fundamentally enjoyed college as a student and began to see what an important time it is developmentally for students. It was then that I knew I never wanted to leave the university setting.”
-Bridget Miller, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Services
During her Master of Education in Higher Education Administration program at The University of Texas, Miller continued using her elective courses to study physical activity. After talking to a kinesiology faculty member about his exercise and mood research, she decided to stay in Austin to pursue a Ph.D. in Health Education.
“This was when I realized that this was my path,” Miller says. “I learned that when you are exposed to many things, you can course correct and then course correct some more to get to where you’re supposed to be.”
Miller’s passion for higher education settings continued to grow during her graduate programs. In her hometown, she had graduated with a class of 50. Its population (3,000) was the same as the number of residents in one of the largest dormitories at The University of Texas.
“I walked by it all the time, and it blew my mind,” she says. “I fundamentally enjoyed college as a student and began to see what an important time it is developmentally for students. It was then that I knew I never wanted to leave the university setting.”
Miller’s first academic appointment involved teaching and research at Oklahoma State University. Sooner than she expected, it included administrative responsibilities as well. As one of few faculty members in a small public health program (Health Education and Promotion) she found herself in a senior position within just a couple of years.
“I learned that when you are exposed to many things, you can course correct and then course correct some more to get to where you’re supposed to be.”
-Bridget Miller, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs
Though Miller loves teaching – and has received several honors* that reflect her expertise in this area – she discovered that she also enjoyed looking at the bigger picture. Thinking about curriculum, how a particular class fits into educational objectives, and various learning outcomes were fun for Miller. Her committee work taught her even more about how to achieve these goals, particularly in the context of policy and other higher-level factors.
Over her 17 years at Oklahoma State, Miller directed the public health program and even served as interim associate provost. When a friend shared the Arnold School’s position announcement for the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Affairs position, it sounded like the perfect fit – a role where she could focus on her true passion of undergraduate education in public health/exercise science.
Miller was familiar with the prestige of UofSC and the Arnold School, but she had never been to South Carolina until her job interview. Thrilled to be offered the position, Miller is excited to join a program that is already top notch.
“My hope it to continue that excellence by supporting the advisors and, of course, the students as they develop through their college years and reach their potential – whether it’s graduate school, study abroad, jobs – whatever their goals may be,” Miller says. “I’ve been advising students since I arrived in August, and I’m so impressed with them. My goal is to walk next to them and help put them in touch with the resources and opportunities they need.”
Miller is the second faculty member to hold the Association Dean for Undergraduate Student Affairs position, which was created in 2017. Clinical Associate Professor Sara Corwin led the undergraduate public health programs as director for nearly a decade before serving as the inaugural associate dean for all undergraduate programs. Corwin will continue to teach and advise students as part of the undergraduate services team.
"Our undergraduate programs are often praised as a model of efficiency and success at UofSC and beyond," says Thomas Chandler, Dean of the Arnold School and Chair of the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health’s Undergraduate Education Network. "I'm particularly grateful to Dr. Corwin for doing a fantastic job building and leading these critical programs through some challenging times for the university, and I am very excited to welcome Dr. Miller, who we were so fortunate to recruit from Oklahoma State University’s excellent health science undergraduate program.”
*Some of Miller’s honors include OSU Mortar Board Faculty Golden Torch Award (Outstanding Scholarship, Leadership & Service), Regents Distinguished Teaching Award, Oklahoma State University, Teaching Excellence Award, OSU College of Education, Teaching Excellence Award, OSU College of Education, Faculty Teaching Fellow – Institute for Teaching & Learning Excellence (ITLE), Joan Donelson Jacques Endowed Professor of Health Promotion.