EDUCATION ACROSS OUR GREAT STATE

DEMONS ON FIRE – EMILY MILLER FINDS HER PATH HELPING STUDENTS WITH THEIR OWN ACADEMIC JOURNEY

Brought To You By NSU

Emily Miller, Northwestern State University’s assistant director of Recruiting for Transfer and Graduate Students, has personal perspective and understanding of the students she helps enroll at NSU.  As a graduate student herself, she, too, faces the challenges in balancing a full-time job with pursuing academic goals.   

Miller, a Stonewall native, earned a degree in biology at NSU in 2020, the semester that COVID-19 shut down the world. After taking a gap year, she joined the staff in NSU’s Office of Recruiting.  Working with graduate and transfer students opened her eyes to struggles that many non-traditional students face, whether it’s been 10 or 20 years since they were last in school, if they are returning to finish a bachelor’s degree or if they are pursuing a career change and seeking a master’s or doctoral degree.  

Motivated by her students’ determination and her desire to help them, Emily is now nearing completion of a master’s degree in Student Affairs in Higher Education through NSU’s School of Education.  This semester, she is interning in NSU’s Career Center and will graduate in May, putting her on a career path to helping others navigate the college experience.   

NSU visited with Emily to talk about her academic journey, finding her feet at NSU and her plans for the future. The conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.  

NSU: What drew you to enroll at NSU as an undergrad?  

Emily: When I came for my tour, I realized that it was super personable. What really set it in stone for me was when I came to Freshman Connection. Someone greeted me and knew me by name.  They were like, “Oh, Emily.  I’ve been emailing your mom.” I thought, “Oh my goodness, it’s crazy that you know exactly who I am and you remembered exactly what my issues were and were able to help me.”  I wanted to give that same experience to students, too.  

NSU: As an undergraduate, what are some things you were involved with?   

Emily: I was involved with numerous organizations, Baptist Collegiate Ministry, Tri Sigma Sorority, Alpha Lambda Delta, Demon VIP, Tri Beta Biology Honor Society. I was super busy all the time, but I really enjoyed it. Each of those organizations helped me meet a ton of people.  I think it helped me realize that Student Affairs is really important to me and that my student experience shaped who I am.  

NSU: How did you change course from biology to Student Affairs?  

Emily:  When I was in the biology program, I enjoyed every part of it. I loved my classes, the labs, everything, but as I would research different programs in the medical field, I couldn’t make a decision on what I wanted to do. Once I started working in the Recruiting Office, I realized, “Wow, this is what I’m meant to do, what I’m excited to do.” The next semester I enrolled in the Student Affairs in Higher Education master’s program.  

NSU: What is your initial point of contact with graduate and transfer students?  

Emily: Transfer students contact me either through email or phone calls, but I also attend a lot of transfer fairs.  NSU has a ton of articulation agreements with in-state community colleges and some out-of-state community colleges. We receive lists of students who graduated with their associate degree or certificate program.  I reach out to those students and let them know about the opportunities Northwestern can offer them.  

NSU:  What are some of the challenges they face?    

Emily: A lot of times, they are older students and non-traditional students working full-time jobs, coming back to school.  That comes with challenges.  I’m enrolled in school right now and I also have a full-time job, so I know what those challenges are.  Time management is a huge challenge.  But when you are motivated and you want to go back to school and finish your education, you will do anything you can to do that.  

NSU: How do you attract those students to NSU?    

Emily: We offer transfer scholarships, and we offer a Phi Beta Kappa Scholarship, which is specific to community colleges.  It sets us apart and helps students know how they are going to pay for college.  A lot of time, academic scholarships that are offered to freshman students are not offered to transfer students.  They wonder “How can I manage this while also managing all my other finances?”  Those scholarships ease that financial strain on them. I talk to them about how easy it is to work around their schedules, too. We offer online programs to students and that’s very beneficial to them, especially if they are working fulltime.   

NSU: What are your long-term goals?   

Emily: I do hope to continue working in Student Affairs.  I really enjoy the recruiting and retention side of it.  I love being able to help students with their everyday issues or things that they run into.  It’s interesting to see why students stay enrolled.  Long-term, I plan on continuing through recruiting and retention.  

NSU: What is something you tell prospective students about NSU?   

Emily: I always tell them at NSU is like a family and then I tell them about my experience at NSU.  I think that’s what NSU does best. We are a family and we really do care about our students.  It’s hard to say that and it sound cliché, but it’s important that students know that there will always be someone on this campus that you can go to.  I hope they take my word for it. I show that to them by answering their emails and their questions and helping them through the transfer and graduate process.  

NSU: Have you ever had a situation where you were at a recruiting event for traditional students and made a connection with a parent interested in graduate school?   

Emily: Actually, I run into parents all the time that are wanting to go back to school. At N Side View Day and at recruiting receptions, when [Director of Recruiting] Van Erikson introduces me, he always says “And parents, if there is anyone that wants to go back to graduate school, talk to Emily.”  I’ve had multiple parents come up to me and ask about M.Ed. programs, doctoral programs. It’s cool to be able to help them with that and potentially have them graduate with their child.  

NSU:  Can you talk about your internship?  

It’s in the Career Center at Northwestern.  Mainly what I’m doing is reviewing resumes and reviewing interview presentations.  It’s exciting because I do have the opportunity to meet with students that I normally wouldn’t run into. I’m very open and tell them I’m doing my internship and give them feedback.  They are super appreciative of it.  It’s exciting to help them achieve their career goals and how they can be better.  I feel like I’m giving them the same experience that I received as a student.  

NSU: How accommodating have faculty and staff have been, such as being flexible with your hours at the Career Center while you’re working?  

Emily: As I’ve been going through my master’s program, the faculty and staff have been super flexible with me.  Just because I am doing my internship and I have a full-time job in the Recruiting Office, the faculty and staff are open to working around my schedule, which I really appreciate. Getting a master’s is one of my goals and it was a concern.  Everyone at Northwestern has been super helpful to me. They help me work around my schedule, both work and internship so I do appreciate the effort they put into that.  

NSU: Describe going through the master’s program from the perspective of a student.  Why would you recommend it?  Not as a recruiter, but as a graduate student.  

Emily: My program coordinator has been amazing.  Dr. Paula Christensen has been there to help me through any and all issues that I’ve had. I’m enrolling in one or two classes per semester.  That’s what works best for me. Dr. Paula is very helpful when it comes to that. She knows my work load.  I actually suggested doing my internship in the fall and she said “Absolutely not.  You know how busy you are in the fall.” When the fall semester came I said, “I really appreciate you telling me not to do that.”  It’s very similar to my undergraduate experience.  The program coordinator and the instructors know my name and they know where I am on campus. It feels like they are helping me achieve my goals. I would not be where I am today without them.  

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