Bethany Miller earns UM's Taylor Medal for academic achievement
GRENADA, Miss. – After graduating from Grenada High School in 2011, Bethany Miller enrolled at Holmes Community College's Grenada Center, where she served as a student ambassador and a student worker in the vice president's office.
She graduated with an associate's degree in social work in 2013 and started classes in the nursing program the following fall. But after a year in the program, Miller's career path seemed less clear and she withdrew from the program.
"I tried the clinical practice and nursing classes, and I decided that this was not the direction for my life," Miller said. "I wasn't sure what was next for me, so I took some time off from school to think about what I might want to do careerwise."
Just a few short years later, Miller seems to have found her calling in higher education and looks to help others in her community pursue their educational goals. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Mississippi this spring and was awarded the university's highest academic award, the Taylor Medal.
Before she enrolled at UM, Bethany was working full-time at an urgent care clinic in Grenada, but she truly missed working at a college. So when she saw an opening in the financial aid office at Holmes-Grenada, she jumped at the opportunity.
"I missed the college environment and working with students," Miller said. "Financial aid is such a crucial part of students getting the opportunity to pursue their dreams.
"I still wanted to help people, just not in the medical field anymore, and this job was the perfect way for me to do that."
During her time in this position, Miller realized that she wanted to start taking classes again to complete her bachelor's degree and pursue her own career goals. She already knew about the University of Mississippi at Grenada, housed on the Holmes-Grenada campus, because her husband, Trey Miller, had completed his Ole Miss degree there in 2013.
Trey, who works as an assistant program manager with Effex Management Solutions, has since completed his Master of Arts degree in human services counseling online. The Millers met while helping cater an event at Holmes-Grenada and were married in July 2014.
After receiving several scholarships, including the Community College Excellence and First Generation College Student scholarships, Bethany enrolled in the Bachelor of General Studies program at the Grenada campus in fall 2015.
"I loved the diversity of this degree program," Miller said. "I was leaning toward going into education, but I still had a lot of interests. This program let me study subjects I am really interested in.
"It feels like it's three degrees all wrapped up into one."
Miller minored in education, English and sociology while at UM-Grenada. One of her favorite classes, she said, was the Transfer Student Experience, taught by UM instructor and Carrollton native Matthew Deloach.
"I just loved the opportunity to get some of the same experiences as Oxford campus students," Miller said. "Mr. Deloach shared the journey with us and gave us ideas for being successful in our path to complete our degree."
Deloach said he admired Miller's work ethic as she worked full-time and maintained a full-time college course load. He also mentioned her drive to help others and take on leadership roles.
"In class, Bethany would share experiences from her life and her work at Holmes to help other students," Deloach said. "She seems to enjoy supporting and encouraging her classmates. I think she is positioned well to make a positive impact in her community."
In late 2016, Miller moved into a new position at Holmes as assistant to the vice president and the academic dean at Holmes-Grenada.
"I have really enjoyed new challenges in this position as well as continuing to work with students, faculty and staff," Miller said. "I get to help with events, help students build schedules and work with area businesses."
Miller hopes that she can share her experiences to inspire students even further as she looks to pursue graduate classes in the hopes of one day teaching at the college level.
As one of the top students in UM's Bachelor of General Studies 2017 graduating class, Miller was asked to serve as the banner barrier during Commencement exercises earlier this month in Oxford. She also was nominated to address her fellow graduates during the program's graduation ceremony.
"I wanted to encourage everyone to enjoy the journey of education and life," Miller said. "Looking at the blank pages of our future after graduation can be a bit intimidating at first. I believe that once we get started, it will all come together, just like it has for me.
"I hope I don't forget to enjoy the ride, even as it takes me around different corners in my career and life."