October 30, 2020

Marissa Miller: Stepping Up for Students

If you’ve ever emailed Marissa Miller and haven’t heard back in a snap, don’t take it personally.
Her two roles as associate coordinator in the Office of Student Conduct and coordinator for Prevention and Advocacy with the Office of Title IX keep her so busy chances are you’ve seen her speed-walking to her next destination on campus.

And her workload ramps up for Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April and for Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, which kicked off on Tuesday at UMW. (Look online for a schedule.)

She plows through the piles of paperwork that cross her desk, but her biggest commitment by far is to students. The steady stream in and out of her office – often overwhelming and sometimes emotional – is the one constant in Miller’s world.

Q: What’s a typical day like for you?
A: There isn’t one! I can have a plan, but if somebody walks through my door who’s in need, the plan goes out the window. You always have to put students first, so I feel like it can change at the drop of a dime.

Q: What’s the most challenging part of your job?
A: Work-life balance. It’s not an 8-to-5 job. Wellness and self-care is very important to me so trying to maintain that balance creates my best self at work.

Q: What’s most rewarding?
A: On the student conduct side, meeting with students about an incident and making sure they understand that I don’t feel like this defines them as a person. I love being able to really connect and share in the joy of how they plan to move forward. In Title IX, its getting people the support that they need and letting them know that they have options and decisions.

Q: How do you practice self-care since this can be a heavy topic?
A: I have a great team. They’re always here to support and help in any way they can. Also, I love escaping to the movies, spending time with my goddaughter, cooking elaborate meals, and pretending to workout.

Q: What’s the TEAL peer program about?
A: TEAL stands for Teamwork for Empowerment, Advocacy and Learning. Teal is also the awareness color for sexual assault survivors. I enjoy educating students about consent and healthy sex/relationships, but peers want to hear from their peers. That’s where the TEAL peer educators come in; they can talk about our policy and they can connect students to resources on/off campus without initiating a report. It creates a space where we continue to empower survivors to make decisions for themselves while educating the larger UMW community.

Q: You have an eagle’s eye view of UMW’s culture surrounding abuse. How has it changed?
A: A lot of it is awareness. We’re in the movement of #MeToo. A couple years ago, our prevention might have looked like one event in October, one in April and one at Orientation. Now,
I could do three things in one week! That’s something that’s changed since I started here, and I would hope that it’s changed across campuses.

Q: Are there any mantras you live by?
A: The serenity prayer, which is really about understanding the things you can control and the things you can’t.