Commencement Stories: Lisa Miller Balances School, Life, and Work

On July 11, Excelsior College will host its annual Commencement ceremony at the Empire State Plaza in downtown Albany, New YorkWith ‘Commencement Stories’, Excelsior Life explores the personal and educational journeys of a few of this year’s outstanding graduates. Follow #ExcelsiorGrad2014 for all Commencement-related updates and activities.

Lisa Miller with parents
Lisa Miller with her parents.

Originally from Staunton Virginia, a small town in the Shenandoah Valley, Lisa Miller is an educator and has enjoyed advocating for young people for more than 32 years. She is also a proud mom of two wonderful children, that she considers her biggest and best life experience.

Outside of parenting and advocating, Miller decided with the support of her parents, it was time to return to college. Her parents instilled the value of an education in her. They didn’t experience more than a high school education themselves, but they wanted their children to experience college.

More: Read about the educational journeys of this year’s graduates in ‘Commencement Stories]

In 2000, Miller completed her two year degree from Blue Ridge Community College and studied human services. Years later, in 2009, she began thinking about a four year degree. Miller recalls, “I was researching quite a few online colleges. Excelsior College fit my criteria of cost and majors offered.This is when I became determined to finish what I had started.”

Lisa Miller and her children.
Lisa Miller and her children.

Balancing school and work wasn’t always easy. Miller said at times it was very hard. In fact, she had to withdraw from Excelsior College in 2010 because of the demands of family. Her son and daughter were diagnosed with severe asthmatic symptoms which required hospitalization and active monitoring. She was also diagnosed with Macular Degeneration with 47% of vision loss in one eye and 53% of vision loss in the other. Although she was able to maintain employment, her responsibilities were greatly reduced. But she is so grateful that she chose to return to college.

Today Miller is proud of reaching her goal at Excelsior College. On May 16, 2014, she was conferred her Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts. This degree has helped her because now she has many opportunities, in areas of her interest that she couldn’t reach without a degree. Her next goal is to become a member of a non-profit organization in management. Miller’s educational goals will continue. She was accepted into grad school at Excelsior College.

Reminiscing about her college experience, Miller says “The Liberal Arts Capstone course was the most influential course. It allowed me to research my personal choices, their effects, and how to pursue my educational and occupational goals.”

Miller’s college advisor, Pauline Hooten, also impacted her college experience. “She was exceptional, positive, encouraging and supportive. When I decided to withdraw from Excelsior College in 2010, she understood my medical situation. When I decided in 2012 to re-enroll, she encouraged me to finish my degree, and referred to the department for students with disabilities for assistance.” Miller says, “I pushed forward because of the employees of Excelsior College. Although I have a visual impairment in which I have vision loss, I will always remember the people at Excelsior College who believed in me.”

Miller lives her life according to what is written in the Bible and especially treating people with love and kindness. She is currently living in Stuarts Draft, Virginia. Unfortunately, she cannot attend the 2014 graduation ceremony, but plans to walk the stage when she completes her master’s degree. Outside of work, school, and family, Miller participates in volunteer community events as a Children’s Supervisor with the March of Dimes.


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