Michelle Nicole Miller, J.D., who graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Communication with an emphasis in public relations from Eastern New Mexico University in 2009 and a Doctor of Jurisprudence from Texas Tech University School of Law in 2015, was recently appointed to the Safety Planning Working Group for the Texas Governor's Sexual Assault Survivors' Task Force (SASTF).
Ms. Miller, who serves as special assistant to the president and Title IX coordinator at Angelo State University and is the owner of Yucca Training & Consulting and Michelle Miller, Attorney at Law, discusses how ENMU prepared her for her career and her role in the SASTF.
Tell us about your appointment to the SASTF.
A friend of mine that's done some training for my team at ASU with suggested that I be added to the working group as there were no representatives from higher education. I was required to submit my resume and be approved by both the working group and Task Force. My role is just to work with the other members in developing a framework that can be used to assist survivors of sexual assault in safety planning. The Task Force as a whole is in place to develop a comprehensive process (from reporting an assault to law enforcement through prosecution) for survivors of sexual assault. The Safety Planning Working Group is a piece of the process, if survivors can't be safe while addressing their assault, they're less likely to report or receive the help they need.
What does it mean to you be chosen for this role?
I'm really honored to work with such a great group of people that have such expertise in this field. My goal in life is simply to make a difference, and I'm really honored and humbled that I was asked to be a part of a group that ultimately exists to help others.
What inspired you to become a special assistant to the president and Title IX coordinator at Angelo State University?
When I learned about the role of Title IX coordinators at universities, I felt like it was the perfect opportunity to utilize my passion for the law while addressing issues related to sexual misconduct and interpersonal violence while generally working with people and hopefully helping them.
Working within an organization as an attorney is such an interesting role – every day is different and you're exposed to a lot of different projects and problems. It's never dull! While my main duties tie to Title IX, I also get to pitch in and help wherever needed, which is always an adventure!
What are your job duties?
I'm responsible for working with the Texas Tech University System to help develop policies and processes that align with various state and federal laws related to Title IX. I'm responsible for implementing those policies and processes at Angelo State, training faculty, staff and students on those policies and processes, receiving reports about sexual misconduct, providing support and connecting students and staff to resources, and finally investigating and addressing allegations of misconduct. I also teach two sections of a business law course and have my own consulting business and do a little legal work on the side.
Which aspect of your career is the most rewarding?
I absolutely love working with students. I appreciate their openness to learning, their willingness to speak up, open up and engage. I also really love that every day is different for me! I also am grateful that my law degree has opened doors for me to own my own business and in turn learn about other industries and hopefully help people create an environment where their employees thrive.
Where did you work previously?
I was a law clerk at Wetsel, Carmichael, & Allen in Sweetwater, Texas, manager of Education Services at Hendrick Cancer Center in Abilene, Texas, program director at the Janelle Grum Family Crisis Center of East Texas in Lufkin, Texas, an intern for the Ninth Judicial District Attorney in Portales, New Mexico, and coordinator of the Fiber to Home Project at Yucca Telecom in Portales.
How did ENMU prepare you for your career?
Not only did ENMU prepare me for my future via my education, but the smaller class sizes, professors who were engaged and approachable and a community that embraced students provided me with skills to work with people, to navigate a working environment and gave me the confidence to take chances.
Why did you choose to attend ENMU?
I grew up in Portales and was generally familiar with Eastern, so I knew it was a good school. However, since I grew up in Portales, I really wanted to try something different, so I started out in Las Cruces at New Mexico State. After going to NMSU for a semester, I found Eastern was a better fit for me and offered a much better program for communication.
How did you choose your field of study?
I knew I wanted to go to law school, but I also wanted to have a backup plan which meant getting a degree that would facilitate me working in a field I found interesting. I have always been interested in politics and thought that a degree in public relations would allow me to work in that field if for some reason, law school didn't work, I could still do something I enjoy.
Which activities were you involved in during your time at ENMU?
I was involved in the Student Government Association. I also did an internship in Washington, D.C., for then-Senator Pete V. Domenici.
Discuss your Eastern Experience.
I absolutely love Dr. Patti Dobson; she was full of information and was so approachable and kind, consistently encouraged me and made me feel seen and heard. I honestly really enjoyed all of my professors and my classes while at ENMU. There are a LOT of lovely people at Eastern who I didn't have class with but got to know and have helped me along my way. Ronnie Birdsong, Dr. Pat Thatcher, Dr. Elder are a few of the people off of the top of my head; I am sure I am forgetting a lot of people.
What advice would you give to a student interested in working in your career field?
I would encourage students interested in the law to – go for it! The versatility of a law degree is worth all the hard work. I would encourage students to reach out to people they know who seem to be doing what they desire to do and ask questions, ask to shadow, ask about professional organizations that they belong to, and then mimic what they do. I also encourage students to not only find one person but find a couple of people who have a career or a life that inspires them as sometimes you catch people at the wrong time, or in the wrong place and one person shouldn't represent an entire profession.
Discuss your involvement in organizations and your community.
I am so glad to be involved with my community and honored to be a part of a few great organizations. I serve on the Northwest Texas Legal Aid Board. I'm a member of the Tom Green County Bar. I'm on the executive board of the Tom Green County Young Lawyers Association. I am the vice president of the Family Shelter Board. I was recently asked to serve on the executive board of the San Angelo Performing Arts Center and the United Way Board. I also volunteer with Hospice of San Angelo.
Tell us about your family and background.
I grew up in Portales, where my parents, Mike and Julie Miller, still live. I graduated from Portales High School and started college in Las Cruces at New Mexico State. After my first semester, I realized that New Mexico State didn't really offer the degree program I was interested in so, I came back to Portales, where I finished my undergraduate degree. I have lived all over Texas and have really chosen San Angelo as my home. My parents are close by and visit often, and I have a beautiful group of friends who are all much more like family. I have two super-sweet (and kind of rowdy) schnauzers, Ellie and Zeke.
Who influences you? Who is your role model?
I have a lot of role models, but my parents have certainly influenced me – and continue to influence me– the most. My dad has my dream job; the choices he's made and his success comes from hard work and a humble heart – something I always aspire to have, as well. My mom is the kindest person I think I've ever met and is always willing to help and serve others – with no expectation of recognition or return, again, character traits I can only hope to obtain as well. Both of my parents have led by example in how they treat each other, how they treat others, how they serve their community and their commitment to each other and me. I'm incredibly fortunate to have that kind of example in my life.
I also have a group of about eight female friends who inspire me daily for different reasons; they are my “circle,” and each one of them has traits that I aspire to attain. Finally, I have been really lucky to work for some great bosses throughout my professional career – all who have taken time to teach me, mentor me and really become friends who have given me guidance and support along my journey – including Cecile Archibeque at Yucca Telecom.
Which awards and accomplishments have you earned?
I received a Distinction Award while in law school and graduated cum laude from law school. My publications include:
- Law Clerk, Rod E. Wetsel & Becky H. Diffen, Lexis Practice Advisor Series – Texas Business & Commercial Fundamentals of Wind Leasing Transactions (LexisNexis Matthew Bender 2015)
- Law Clerk, Rod E. Westel, Ernest Smith, Becky H. Diffen, & Melissa Powers, Wind Law (Lexis Nexis Matthew Bender 2015)
- Author, 100 Year Anniversary of Running N Cattle Company (Congressional Record – Senate, 2007)
What are your hobbies?
I love exercising – Orangetheory fitness workouts and yoga are my two main avenues in doing so. I love being outside, spending time with friends, playing golf and reading.
Ms. Miller and her friends support Angelo State Athletics at the annual Blue and Gold Auction in 2019.
(L-R: Amby Richards, Dr. Crystal Kreitler, Lindsay Cranek, Brie Perks, Jamie Akin, Ms. Miller, Amy Cowley and Cora Compton).