Q&A with new Dean of Students Melanie Miller

Shiann Sivell

{{tncms-inline content=”<p>A earlier version of this article stated that Dean Miller was employed at the University of Florida at Jacksonville, when it should’ve been Florida State College at Jacksonville. The version also stated that Miller served as a vice president, when she was associate vice president instead. The George-Anne regrets these errors.</p>” id=”27e7a0a4-8704-4316-92b6-1565ef2176cf” style-type=”correction” title=”Correction” type=”relcontent”}}

The new Dean of Students Melanie Miller sat down with The George-Anne to discuss her thoughts on becoming part of Eagle Nation.

Ken Gassiot, Associate Vice President of Student Engagement, introduced Miller in a tweet on Jan. 29 shortly after they explored some well-known areas of Georgia Southern.

In an optimistic interview, Miller spoke on her excitement for change for GS and her plans to follow in former Dean Patrice Jackson’s footsteps.

Q: Tell us a bit about your career background.

A: “I have a history of over 20 years in working in higher education and initially worked in several different positions at the University of Alabama and most recently was working at Florida State College at Jacksonville. I’ve been Associate Dean, and I’ve had a position of Associate Vice President of Student Affairs prior to coming here.

I started my career in higher education as director of a gender and women resource center, so I’ve had a long history of interest and commitment to social justice issues, and a lot of my work has reflected that. I also did my doctoral dissertation work related to social justice ally development and looking at how people who work in student affairs can be allies to different student groups on campus who need additional support and allies to eliminate barriers so that they can be successful.”

Q: With both of your parents being civil rights era journalists, did their work inspire you to do what you’re doing now?

A: “Sure, I think so. They were reporters who covered things like the Civil Rights movement in Alabama and some of those issues. Having that early exposure and influence from their work and seeing some of the events that happened first-hand certainly gave me more commitment and interest in social justice issues.”

Q: Why did you decide to come to Georgia Southern?

A: “It was really good opportunity to broaden my portfolio a little bit. At Florida State College, it was a very large college of 50,000 students in several different locations, and largely was a commuter school as well. I just really liked that Georgia Southern has more of that traditional university feel and the residential campus component.

I think it’s really an exciting time to be here. I think the consolidation, though it was a bit scary for people, has provided a lot of opportunities to really grow and expand in new ways, and perhaps to offer some new things for students in all the locations. I like change, so I think that this was just a good time to be involved in building out a foundation for something that looks a little bit new.”

Q: With the commencement ceremonies being such a hot-button issue for students right now, have you had any say or opinions on the topic?

A: “I have certainly been asked about it, but the decision was made before I came on board, certainly at a higher level than I am. I’ve certainly been talking to students about it. At this point I think at least for this year that the decision is done.

It’s not really a discussion point as far as if it’s going to be changed right now, so what I’ve been doing with students right now who have brought it up is just try to talk through how it might look and feel different, but how there are some advantages to it. I’m trying to help them see some of the ways it might be a more meaningful ceremony. I know it’s not what they’re used to, and perhaps not what they had in their mindset of what their commencement ceremony would look like.”

Q: Do you have any plans you’d like to enact, maybe pick up on ones that Dean Jackson left behind?

A: “At this point I’m trying to do kind of a listen and learn tour, going around and getting to know people and to know the departments that are part Student Affairs here, and learning a lot about what they’ve already been doing, what the goals are that they’ve already set. Then I would hope just to build up on that to make sure that the areas that I’m responsible for have a shared vision and goals that are supporting ultimately the strategic plan of the university.

I think [Jackson] did a lot of great work, so there [are] big shoes to fill coming in behind her. I also hope our areas kind of continue to move that vision forward in new ways.”

Shiann Sivell, The George-Anne Enterprise Reporter, gaeditor@georgiasouthern.edu.