The loose boundaries of identity allow for people, and institutions, to continuously reinvent themselves. From its roots as a Methodist seminary in the early 1800’s to its present-day status as a liberal-arts college, Albion College itself has had numerous metamorphoses, each bringing its own offering to the college’s history book.
Joey Miller (‘75) has been through her own set of transformations. From a “cocky liberal” protesting pollution in her native Ohio to an executive for a Fortune 500 company, Miller’s acumen has given her a diverse library of experiences which she will put to use as the newly appointed member of Albion College’s Board of Trustees.
The former vice-president of IT for the behemoth automotive supplier Magna International describes herself using adjectives such as “change-agent” and “visionary,” two words people around Albion are becoming more accustomed to hearing as the initial undertakings of the city’s revitalization have commenced.
Chronicled recently in media outlets like the Wall Street Journal, Albion College has become an invested partner in the efforts to build a stronger relationship with its surrounding city. For students and alumni it has been hard to ignore the talks of resurgence spilling out of the college’s statements, but for Miller, revitalization does not mean “saving.”
“I tend to shy away from hot skills,” said Miller when asked what she looks for in job-seekers and engagement opportunities. Unveiling her liberal-arts background, the former anthropology major revealed that, even as an IT executive, she still focused her efforts on “seeing relationships” and the “empowerment” of people. And when looking at the town’s revitalization, what Miller wants isn’t news articles and outside praise.
“What I envision is a firmer handshake,” said Miller.
This may come as a refreshing refrain from the platitudes that traditionally accompany the revival of a city, but Miller is about more than purposed slogans. She has already visited the city agenda-less, searching for ways to build rapport in areas where grants and investments fall short.
For healthcare students, she speculated at “the opportunity to have clinics” and in light of the annexation of Albion’s school district, mutually beneficial “teaching programs for Albion students” to engage with kids after school.
These may not sound like the typical initiatives of a former IT executive, and Miller recognizes it. She is candidly self-aware of the seeming discrepancy between her career and character, alluding to it as a “yin-yang relationship.” Comically, she even admitted to being adamantly concerned when the Gerstacker Institute was founded when she was a student, worried that Albion would become “a Republican business school.”
But after a year studying abroad in the backcountry of Sierra Leone and receiving a graduate fellowship at Oberlin College, Miller was presented an opportunity, or rather, a bet.
The wager was if she could “survive” in the real-world of business she would be owed a bottle of wine; if not, she’d have to fork one over herself. Thirty years later, Miller is grateful for that opportune bet, but she still thinks she should have gotten a better bottle.
Photo courtesy of Joey Miller