Sinclair School of Nursing Dean Judith Miller to retire in December

Miller plans to move back home to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and write a book in her retirement.
Judith Miller, dean of MU’s Sinclair School of Nursing, will retire Dec. 31, 2017. Courtesy of MU News Bureau

Judith Miller will retire as dean of the MU Sinclair School of Nursing on December 31.

“I’m going to miss the people; I’m grieving about that already,” Miller said. “I’m going to miss relationships with donors, alumni, students and faculty. One of my most enjoyable experiences is making rounds to the clinical settings to see students and have them present their patients to me.”

Though she won’t be a part of the MU faculty this coming semester, Miller has high aspirations for the school, students and staff. In 2016, she aided in developing and condensing a thirty-page strategic plan into two pages detailing a few goals for the university, she said.

“I hope for the university to be flexible and to understand and meet our learners’ needs,” Miller said. “I hope we continue to be future focused in our curriculum and in our programming. I don’t want the faculty and staff to engage in the status quo because then one becomes stagnant. I want them to be on top of their game.”

Miller began her duties as dean in August 2008 after working as interim dean of Marquette University’s College of Nursing.

“I was enticed to come here because the School of Nursing is part of an academic health center, and it is excellent in education and research,” she said.

As an alumna of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire and University of Illinois at Chicago, Miller emphasized the appeal of a traditional college town as well. University towns have diversity, performing arts and lectures that “are special to academic environments,” she said.

Outside of work, Miller enjoys visual and performing arts. In fact, a majority of her family is artistically inclined, as exemplified by her eldest daughter’s current teaching position at an art school.

Miller began her career at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire as a music major. Although she still loves classical music, she did not enjoy her individual piano classes and ultimately decided to pursue another career path.

“My piano teacher was really strict, and as a late adolescent I didn’t think perfection in playing was all that important,” Miller said. “My father helped me think about careers that would be more humanistic and caring, which I seemed to be aligned with.”

After practicing as a nurse, Miller shifted her focus to “influencing the discipline by helping shape future nurses,” which eventually led to a career in higher education and research in nursing. According to Miller, she has written 30 research proposals since her time at MU, sometimes completing three or four proposals a year.

In addition to her research, Miller has improved communication with donors, prospective students and faculty members. When asked about her proudest achievements, she further discussed the importance of communication and promotion as a dean.

“I have enhanced fundraising and increased the number of donors and friends to the school, as well as put together an advisory board and a development board,” she said. “I’ve been able to enhance communication so that we can showcase accomplishments of the faculty, students and alumni. That’s important to mention as that is one facet of the dean’s role, to be able to promote the school.”

Vicki Conn, associate dean for research at the Sinclair School of Nursing, has worked with Miller since 2008 and spoke of Miller’s dedication to the university, as well as her sense of humor and compassion for students.

“[She is] high, high energy,” Conn said. “She is always working on behalf of the School of Nursing. 16 hours a day, seven days a week. She is always thinking about how to push the School of Nursing forward to reach those goals.”

Dean David Kurpius of the School of Journalism agreed, describing Miller as a “tireless worker.” He extended this sentiment to describe her retirement.

“She enjoys her work, so I don’t see her getting up in the morning and not having anything to do,” he said. “She’s going to make sure she’s busy and moving something forward.”

Other than working together on the Council of Deans, Kurpius and Miller share some similarities, such as having attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison and being Green Bay Packer fans, according to Kurpius. He has worked with Miller since his arrival to MU in 2015 and noted that she helped him adjust to the university.

“She was one of the people that really helped me get settled on campus when I got here,” he said. “I appreciated her helpfulness at that time and the interactions we’ve had.”

When asked about her impending retirement, Miller said that she’ll miss the connections and relationships she’s built at the university the most.

Regarding her future, Miller is planning to move back to Wisconsin. As she is an avid reader and member of a book club, it’s no surprise that Miller is also preparing to write a book.

“I’m trying to separate from here and continue to have a life fully lived,” she said. “I’m probably going to write a book on hope as a construct important for the quality of life and do some other initiatives as I relocate back to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, my home.”

Edited by Olivia Garrett |

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