Walt Disney World may be the most magical place on earth, but for Wendy Miller, dean of health professions, math, science and engineering, Elgin Community College is the most rewarding place on earth. Her position as dean is the perfect [magical] blend of Miller’s love of science, medicine and teaching, and offers her exciting new challenges every day.
While this is a dream job for Miller who has been at ECC since 1992, it’s no fairy tale fantasy: being a dean involves making sure that faculty, administrators and staff have the support and resources they need to succeed. “I keep a notebook on my desk; it’s labeled ‘Everything You Need to Be a Dean’,” joked Miller. “This notebook will come in handy if anyone ever needs to know the real nitty gritty parts of ‘deaning’.”
But like a fairy god-mentor, Miller’s greatest accomplishment has been to help her program directors grow professionally, and to support students in their success. “On really good days I get to hear from students who have been positively impacted by the work we do in the division. It’s incredibly rewarding.”
When she isn’t “deaning,” you can find Miller working on a book she’s writing for clinical instructors that one day, you’ll be able to see on the shelf of an [enchanted] library. Or, you might find Miller and her family planning their next Disney adventure. As Disney fans, they hope to visit all of the international parks. So far, they have experienced the magic of Walt Disney World, Disneyland and Disneyland Paris.
Between travels abroad, Miller will continue to pursue her dreams and be an advocate for others to pursue theirs. After all, “All of our dreams come true if we have the courage to pursue them,” said Miller, nodding to the quote by Walt Disney himself.
We caught up with Miller to learn more about her life and her work at ECC. Here is what she had to say.
Tell us about your first ECC experience:
I was hired in August of 1992 and two weeks later classes started. The Clinical Lab Tech program was brand new and six students had been admitted. I didn’t have a lab or any equipment which makes teaching things like complete blood counts, throat cultures and antibody titers kind of tricky. My students were good sports and very patient while I hunted around for equipment donations from the local hospitals. Talk about starting from the ground up!
What would you do if you were ECC president for a day?
If I were president for a day, I would establish a set time during the week when no classes were held. This would allow us time to schedule committee meetings; we need more time where we can all get together to do innovative work.
What’s on your “bucket list?”
I’ve been writing a book for clinical instructors, which will hopefully be published one day. I also hope that my daughter who is studying to be an architect will design my next house and my daughter who is studying modern dance will audition for a dance company that performs around the world. That way, my husband and I could travel to see her shows.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
Does shoe shopping count? I’ve never met a shoe store I didn’t like. (Editor’s note: if the [glass] slipper fits, we recommend buying it.)
What’s one fact we should know about you?
While I was working on my master’s thesis at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), I learned how to do some basic artificial intelligence programming. I worked on a project to diagnose autoimmune diseases. This area of medicine is still developing, so I feel good knowing that my research had value.
What was your favorite class in school?
My favorite class was medical immunology at UIC. The professor walked in with nothing but a marker and started his lecture by drawing diagrams on an overhead projector. I thought he was so cool because he didn’t use notes.
What was your first job out of school?
My bachelor’s degree is in medical technology. During my senior year in college, I interned at Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, IL, and was hired to work in the immunovirology lab there as soon as I graduated. I performed diagnostic antibody testing and served as the clinical instructor in the department. I loved that job...four 10-hour-days per week. It reminds me of summer hours here at ECC!
Complete this sentence: “I enjoy working at ECC because…”
I’m surrounded by people who inspire me to strive for excellence and who make me laugh when things get tough. ECC has allowed me to blend my love of science, medicine and teaching into one career that provides new challenges every day.