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Professor Carol Miller to Retire

"She routinely draws students into the palm of her hand..."

by Riv Ellen Prell

Carol Miller, Morse Alumni Distinguished Professor of Teaching in American Studies and American Indian Studies, will retire from the University of Minnesota in May 2009. Professor Miller has had a distinguished career at the University of Minnesota. She exemplifies the university’s ideal of the citizen/teacher/scholar and her colleagues and generations of students in General College, American Indian studies, and American studies feel enormously fortunate to have had her as a member of our community since 1981.

A distinguished scholar of Native American and women’s literature, as well as a writer of stories and poetry, Professor Miller, an enrolled member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, has written about women’s narratives and Native American novels and poetry. In addition, she is the cofounder and former codirector with Toni McNaron, professor emeritus of English, of “Voices from the Gaps" (voices.cla.umn.edu), a Web site of biographies and critical information about North American women writers of color. Millions of readers and writers from across the globe have visited the site.

Without question, Professor Miller is one of the university’s great teachers. Her undergraduate courses were true models of teaching and active learning. Her colleague Jean O’Brien, who taught courses with her, says, “She routinely drew students into the palm of her hand through her delightfully witty turns of phrase and uncanny ability to pose a question that students found intriguing and accessible."

The graduate students whom she advised shared her interest in literature and culture, and particularly her expertise in Native American literature. Tiya Miles, now associate professor in the Program in American Culture at the University of Michigan, says, “I read Native American literature under her tutelage, gaining a foundation that would influence my academic writing into the future. I also found in her a source of good-sense warmth and creative inspiration for the craft of writing unequaled by the other wonderful professors with whom I had the privilege to work."

Joseph Bauerkemper, just completing his dissertation, describes what it is like to work with her: “Carol has enabled me to grasp the intricate nuances of various scholarly debates, and she repeatedly helps me to understand my place within them."

In 2002 Professor Miller received the President’s Award for Outstanding Service, the University of Minnesota’s highest honor for citizenship. In addition to serving as both chair and director of graduate studies in American studies, she chaired American Indian studies as well. Her colleague Patricia Albers, longtime chair of American Indian studies, says, “We have been privileged to witness her remarkable collegiality and diplomacy at work. Every University department should have a clone of Carol to experience what it means to collaborate and negotiate in an environment of forbearance, trust, and, most of all, fine words and good humor."

Professor Miller served on a wide variety of University and College of Liberal Arts committees and task forces. To every one of these commitments she brought her much-admired good sense, pragmatism, and commitment to the University’s highest ideals, particularly those concerning equity and diversity.

We wish Carol and her family well as they begin the next phase of full-time retirement.