June: Meet Lauren Miller

Lauren is currently the director of marketing and communications for University Housing at the University of Oregon and will be transitioning into a new role as the director of marketing for the Division of Student Affairs also at the University of Oregon.

She is currently responsible for major recruitment campaigns, web and digital communications, media relations, and advertising for University Housing. She works with an incredibly talented team of both professional and student staff.

Prior to working in Oregon, Lauren worked at the University of Texas at Arlington as the assistant director of conference and marketing services. In this role, she worked with a large and varied clientele including world-class athletes hosting their summer camps. Additionally, she managed marketing initiatives for a large number of auxiliary campus operations, including the student union, university housing, campus information center, and summer conferences. Lauren holds her Bachelors of Science from the University of Northern Iowa in Art Education with an emphasis in photography.

Professional Journey

For as long as I can remember I was going to be a teacher. I was great at art, so naturally art education was the perfect choice. I walked right up to my first college advising appointment at orientation and told my advisor my “declared” major. I remember her asking if I was sure, and without pause I said “yep, my mom is a teacher and I can’t wait to be one too.” She hurried me along and put me in my Gen Eds and told me, “you’ve picked the right place if I wanted to be a teacher.” UNI is widely known for its progressive and exceptional education program, but little did I know in less than six months from then my journey would completely change. 

I lived in an all female residence hall my first year and met some incredible friends on my floor, and like most people, a few that I wasn’t as close with (which is RA code for “people who didn’t listen to their RA”). I was the Yearbook Rep for all 50 of us and my RA was always inviting me to come hang out, eat lunch, or design her bulletin boards. She was probably racking up the meet-with-your-residents points every week because I was gullible and I thought she had all the answers.

Then it happened. She knocked on my door, handed me an RA application and told me she believed in me and to give it a shot. I knew my family could use the help financially, so I filled it out thinking there was no way I would get it.

I don’t remember any interview process more intimidating—it was ice breakers and workshops, then I was quizzed by other RAs, and it ended with a sit down interview with professional staff. I felt like a lab rat, and I can honestly say I wasn’t sure that I wanted the job if I was going to be attacked by extroverts every day. But then I got a letter in my mailbox. I remember rushing back to my room to open it alone—because nobody wants to cry in public. But I got the job, which basically carved the next fifteen years of my life in stone.

David Schmiddy, “Schmid” to everyone on his staff, was the first college mentor I ever had. To date, he has probably mentored thousands of students, and somehow he still remembers to send me a birthday card every year. He is remarkable, and he taught me what it meant to care about others in a meaningful and important way (Mom and Dad probably helped, too). There were weeks I don’t know how I did it, and looking back I think it was probably him—pushing me, supporting me, and most importantly seeing my potential. I worked in Noehren for two year (yes, they called me Lauren from Noehren) and then I went on to work in the international residence hall, Bartlett Hall. Cathy was my Residence Director there and was also a remarkable person; she had this way about her. She was no-nonsense but had this humorous side that would literally have the staff rolling on the floor in our staff meetings. Most of my residents were international students or students from Texas—the building had air conditioning and many Texas students stayed year-round so it made sense.

I was planning to student teach overseas the summer after graduation and long story short that ended up not working out. I knew I had better get a job because I wasn’t going to go back to living at home. Cathy and Schmid encouraged me to go to the Oshkosh Placement Exchange and “try this housing thing.” I interviewed with over 20 schools in two days—which then became the next most intimidating interview process. I interviewed with so many schools from all over the country. From Montana and Alaska to Wisconsin and Texas, I was all over the place. Secretly, I took the Texas interview so I could brag to my residents about interviewing there, but I ended up loving the team I interviewed with and flew down to Dallas Fort Worth a few weeks later.

My Midwest-casserole-loving-practical-clothing self did not know what to think. I mean, the woman next to me on the plane was painting her nails and putting on eye make-up—that should have been my first clue. One of my now dearest friends and mentors, Mari, picked me up at the airport with a fancy “Miller” sign. She ended up being my supervisor for the next four years where I learned what it meant to be a great supervisor. I worked in a hall that housed our ROTC cadets and learned a great deal about our military system. It certainly had its perks knowing the Colonel when we had students who needed extra attention.

In my fifth year at UT Arlington I was given an incredible opportunity to discover a new passion—marketing. Selling the student experience, be it living in housing, involvement in our student union, or to camp and conference clients was something I really enjoyed. I stayed in this role for five years and worked with an exceptional team of students and professionals.

I met several marketing and business professors who recommended great reads and websites to help me learn more about the industry. Being a sports enthusiast, I was on cloud nine to be working with legends like Derek Jeter, 20-year shortstop for the New York Yankees, Jay Novaceck, tight end five-time pro bowler for the Dallas Cowboys, and Chris Boniol, one of the greatest kickers in the NFL— all some of the bests ever in their positions and remarkable individuals.

As I near the end of my career in University Housing, I’m reminded how quickly your path can completely change just by someone believing in you and being a mentor. If it not for my RA, Schmid, Cathy, Mari, and several others along the journey, I’m not sure I would have stayed and learned what I really love to do—working with students and professionals to solve marketing and communication problems.

The experience as an RA changed everything for me, all it took was a knock on a door and it all changed. I guess my advisor was right; I did pick the right place, and I am still a teacher, just not in the traditional sense.

Professional Advice

  1. Get a mentor, or six.  It really changes everything to have someone in the background believing in you and there are going to be days when you don’t get it right, and they will help you—likely without judgment.
  2. Come from a place of yes. A great colleague is always saying this to me so I cant take all the credit but people want to work with yes people.  We’ve all met that employee that is always telling you why it won’t work or how the idea is bad.  Don’t do that! No really, don’t do that. Be creative and find ways to start from yes.
  3. Balance. Higher education professionals are so great at overworking. Don’t do that! It’s going to seem like you are always trying to catch up, but never actually do. Learn to be ok with long to-do lists and prioritize the important stuff; the rest can wait. You really do have control over this. Ask for help, renegotiate realistic deadlines, build the time in—whatever it takes. You deserve a fulfilling life outside of your career.

Connect with Leaders

Networking with women, non-binary, and trans leaders in the state of Oregon will enhance your professional experience. We look forward to creating opportunities to meet, connect and develop together.

Engage in Professional Development

Participate in opportunities for professional growth through educational programs that are provided by our campus contact network right on your campus, in your region or at a state wide gathering. The focus is on providing you with the leadership skills and mentoring necessary to lead.

Lead Change in Higher Education

Higher education in the state of Oregon provides a dynamic environment where women, non-binary, and trans people can impact change. Whether in the community college, 4-year institution, public, or private, we want you to be a part of shaping the future of higher education by empowering and affirming your leadership abilities.