Michael Wynn | Social Community Manager
After almost a decade working in a variety of business and finance roles at GE Capital, alumna Nakia Miller felt like something was missing. Miller, who recently returned to the University as a counselor in the Counseling Center, knew that in order to make a difference she needed to make a change.
“I didn’t feel like I was creating purpose or meaning in the day-to-day activities I was doing,” she reflected. “So, I decided to do something different, and I feel like I was called to social work.” Miller immediately enrolled in UConn’s master of social work program, graduating in less than a year after being accepted.
“I think I was just determined and ready to get into the world and help those in need,” she continued. “I’ve always looked at myself as being somewhat representative of young, minority youth who perhaps haven’t really had many role models or mentors who look like them.”
It was one mentor in particular who put her on her path to Post more than a decade ago. In 2004, Miller was working as an intern for alumnus and Post University Board of Trustees member Selim Noujaim while he was serving as representative from Connecticut’s 74th district. Preparing to graduate from Housatonic Community College that year, she did not know what was next but ended up having a conversation with Noujaim that would give her the direction she sought.
“I remember him sharing: ‘well, there’s this school [in Waterbury]’,” she recounted. “He planted the seed for me to be curious enough to look into Post.”
Having an accelerated online program and a criminal justice major, Miller knew that Post was an opportunity she could not pass up. Between her commute and long hours at GE Capital, she made the decision to enroll at Post and graduated in 2010 with her bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a minor in legal studies.
Miller, whose connection to the University spans almost two decades, is excited to be back and is looking forward to the chance to work closely with students on developing their identities and figuring out their place in the world.
“I think the world wants us to believe that life is easy and fun and carefree, and it just isn’t,” Miller said. “There are lots of challenges related to social media, mass shootings, racial and social injustices that we have to try and navigate and try to understand. And it doesn’t always make sense to the individual at the time. These young adults are trying to figure themselves out and the world around them so it’s really important for them to have a sounding board to process their thoughts.”
Lisa Antel, director of the counseling center, knows how critical approachability and genuine care are in developing a therapeutic relationship with college students. It is no surprise then, that she immediately thought of Miller when launching the search for a new counselor last summer.
“I met Nakia a few years ago and I was immediately impressed with her clinical skills, diversity of thought, and compassionate nature,” Antel said. “When I launched the search for a clinician with a strong diversity, equity, and inclusion lens, I immediately thought of her, and before I reached out to her, she applied for the position. Talk about a tribute to the collective unconscious!”
While great strides have been made in combating the stigma around talking about one’s feelings, Miller understands that there are unique challenges that college students face. She hopes to use this understanding to create a safe and welcoming space free from judgment.
“They are dealing with things that other generations haven’t dealt with,” she shared. “College students don’t always feel comfortable talking with anyone, even their advisors, so I want them to know that they have someone [in me] on campus that they can feel comfortable coming to and talking with.”
Antel is equally excited about the impact Miller will have not only on the overall student experience but on the counseling center team as well.
“With Nakia’s extensive teaching experience and attention to the development of student critical consciousness, I foresee her developing programs that are relatable, impactful, and inclusive within our diverse student population,” she said. “She’s a great addition to an excellent team of committed, student-centered clinicians.”