News from the Helm
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A Minute With Dean of Students Stacey Miller
Summer 2013 Dean of Students, Stacey Miller, serves as the Director of Residential Life at the University of Vermont (UVM) and has worked in the field of Student Personnel and Residential Life for over 20 years. She received her Doctorate of Education in the Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program from the College of Education and Social Services at the University of Vermont.
During her tenure at UVM, Dr. Miller has received the designee of scholarly practitioner and lecturer for the Higher Education & Student Affairs Administration (HESA) program and co-teaches one of its core foundational courses, cultural pluralism. She has also taught religious spirituality, which is taught jointly out of the Masters of Interdisciplinary Studies, and HESA programs. She is also the Co-Founder and Managing Partner for the Consortium for Inclusion & Equity, LLC a consulting firm that specializes in helping organizations become more interculturally aware and interculturally competent.
We spoke with Stacey recently about the summer voyage, the differences between working on land and at sea and the rewards of the Semester at Sea program.
Q: This is your first time traveling with the Semester at Sea Program. What differences do you see in an academic setting versus this nontraditional setting, a floating campus at sea?
A: There are certainly many differences, but a lot more similarities than differences. We’re working on a floating university that serves as an academic facility and living facility that is a pure integration of living and learning. What makes it different is the fact that faculty and staff live with the students. Everyone is completely integrated. Most faculty haven’t lived in residence halls since they themselves lived in a residence hall. They’re getting to see students in their natural habitat. As the Director of Residence Life at the University of Vermont, I know what goes on with students, I know what goes on everyday. I manage a lot of students of concern. I am much more hands on in terms of the programmatic activities onboard.
Q: So why Semester at Sea?
A: There are many reasons I’ve chosen to travel with the Semester at Sea Program. I’ve known many people, over 10 of my colleagues and friends, both faculty and staff who have nothing but positive things to say about the program, and this drew me in immediately. Having the recommendation of friends and family makes the world of difference.
I also wanted to travel the world. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and so unique as a study abroad program. Its not just one location, but participants get to see multiple locations. That makes SAS really special and unique. The fact that I can bring my family along is huge. The thought of leaving my family home would not be comfortable for me, but when I realized that family is welcome I jumped at the chance.
Q: What did you find most surprising about living on a ship?
A: I thought it was going to be a lot bigger. The ship is really a comfortable size. It took me some time to get my bearings, but now that I’ve done that I can be most places in three minutes. up down end to end, it doesn’t’ matter. Its really quite cosy, even though smaller than I thought, I still feel like I have room to breathe and that there is enough room for everyone.
Q: And the most rewarding?
A: So far its been getting to know so many people, both faculty and staff, and students from all different campuses from around the country, the world. It’s just nice to see so many people from so many institutions with an openness to meet new people, to build new friendships. I’ve also enjoyed watching the faculty in terms of watching them with students. This is a new for a lot of them. During the Sea Olympics, you could see faculty doing activities, relay races, lip-syncing. When do you get to see that on a land campus? You don’t really see the other side of the faculty. Its nice to see faculty be real.
Q: What do you think you’d be doing if you were not working in the field of student personnel?
A: Professionally I am moving into a place where I will be moving into being a consultant full-time. My passions lie in intercultural competence, training and development and diversity issues. This experience is helping to enrich that knowledge base and that skill set.
Q: What do you hope to bring back to your home campus from this experience?
A: My home campus typically promotes the Semester at Sea program. I hope I can come back to my home campus to promote SAS more. It is truly an amazing program that is special and unique.