Pursue SELF-UNDERSTANDING and INTEGRITY
Nina Miller always did exceptionally well in school. Tests were easy, she didn’t have to study, and her hyperactive lifestyle was perfect for living life on a farm. Nina even said that she never cracked a textbook in high school. But then, she got to Virginia Tech.
She made an effort—she started studying and took notes—but her grades were plummeting. Her GPA started inching dangerously close to academic probation status, so, after some consultation with Cook Counseling Center, Nina was tested and diagnosed with ADHD and a learning disability.
Right before the beginning of her sophomore year, Nina received accommodations from Services for Students with Disabilities. She began to meet with Michael Brown for academic coaching, but she was skeptical. Nina attended the coaching sessions, but, in the back of her mind, she was preparing for one more semester at Virginia Tech before being kicked out because of her grades.
In the first semester she participated in academic coaching, Nina went from almost failing out of college to having her name on the Dean’s List. Most students would be overjoyed, but Nina stayed unconvinced.
She said, “I thought that maybe these accommodations were making college too easy for me.”
Then, Michael spoke up. He told Nina, “It’s not that we’re making it easier. We’re leveling the playing field.”
Ever since, Nina’s time at Virginia Tech has been marked by success and influence. She will graduate this spring with a degree in agribusiness management and minors in leadership and religion. Nina serves on panels and as a facilitator of discussions for SSD, and she is proud of the fact that she can be a mentor to younger students.
Nina says that she always wants to try something new, and she attributes this “favorite trait” to her ADHD. She said that, after she got over the shock of this diagnosis so late in her education, she decided, “Okay. I have this. Now what can I do with it?”
Last spring, Nina travelled to Ghana to study abroad. Other than getting lost in Istanbul on her way to Africa, Nina said that her time there was life changing and life-giving. She said, “I hate school, but I love learning. I love the classes that I can do. Being in Ghana, I loved learning about the culture by experiencing it.”
Nina said, “So many times, we let the little stuff of who we are get in the way of getting to know other people. For the first year after my diagnosis, I was really shy and ashamed of my disability. I thought people would look at me and think, ‘She’s not smart. She can’t handle this.’ But I’ve learned to be okay with who I am. It allows the space for me to get to know people at a deeper level. It gives people the chance to say, ‘Yeah, me too. I struggle too.’”
Nina often tells people, “I have ‘dis’-ability, ‘dis’-ability, and ‘dat’-ability.” She has no problem claiming her diagnoses because she thinks of them as abilities instead of disabilities, and she recognizes that they don’t hold her back.
Hailing from a small town in rural Virginia, Nina calls Blacksburg a “big city.” She said she was confused when everyone was awake after 9:30 p.m. and no one was up at 5 a.m.
After getting past the late nights and late mornings, Nina became incredibly involved at Virginia Tech. She is an intramural sport official and supervisor with Recreational Sports and has been named official of the week and alternate of the week multiple times. In November 2014, Nina was named employee of the month. She also officiates middle school and junior varsity football and middle school and varsity volleyball for local organizations and schools.
She’s a member of the Wesley Foundation, where she previously served as Worship Minister. She volunteered with a tutoring program for local middle and high school students and led a weekly meeting to pray with her peers and share in their faith journeys together. She’s also a member of Fieldstone United Methodist Church, and she has dedicated much time the church’s youth group and to reviving their community garden to provide food for a local food pantry.
Following graduation, Nina plans to attend seminary to pursue a master’s of Divinity. One day, she’d like to run a farm open to kids in the foster care system, with the hopes of teaching them about life and faith in the same environment she grew up in.
Nina, for your resilience, your passion, your self-awareness, and your empathy, I’m pleased to present you with the Aspire! Award for SELF-UNDERSTANDING AND INTEGRITY.
2017-2018 Aspirations Breakfasts*
December 1, 2017
Owens Banquet Room, 8-10 a.m.
*Registration is required to attend the Breakfast.
April 21, 2017 Recipients
Bobby Hollingsworth - Curiosity
Annemarie Bresson - Self-Understanding and Integrity
Christopher Bardo - Civility
Nala Chehade - Courageous Leadership
Elizabeth Galbreath - Ut Prosim
Hillary Kovacs – Ut Prosim
Robert and Kara Julius – Ut Prosim
Jerry Colyer [posthumous award] – Ut Prosim
March 17, 2017 Recipients
Lt. Tony Haga – Courageous Leadership
February 17, 2017 Recipients
Danielle Jeffers - Curiosity
Colleen McGovern - Self-Understanding and Integrity
Min Kyung “Julie” Sim - Civility
Lamont “Gucci” Livingston - Courageous Leadership
Jacob Long - Ut Prosim
Alece Alderson – Civility
November 4, 2016 Recipients
Rhiannon Hasenauer - Ut Prosim
Zack Sever - Civility
David Gardner - Courageous Leadership
Zachary Hoopes - Curiosity
Bridger Johnson - Self-Understanding and Integrity
Jon Fritsch – Self-Understanding and Integrity
October 7, 2016 Recipients
Zachariah Ewen - Ut Prosim
Jordan Evans - Civility
Megan Lee Myklegard - Courageous Leadership
Alex Hamilton - Curiosity
Bryan Faulkner - Self-Understanding and Integrity
Catherine Cotrupi – Curiosity
April 22, 2016 Recipients
Samantha Hall - Ut Prosim
Charelle Berry - Civility
Audrey Semel - Courageous
Jess King - Curiosity
Mike Schoka - Self-Understanding
Frances Keene – Ut Prosim
John Graham – Ut Prosim
Susan Anderson – Courageous
February 19, 2016 Recipients
Javier González-Rocha – Self-Understanding and Integrity
Obaid Rehman – Civility
Claire Kelling – Courageous
Meghan McLoughlin – Ut Prosim
Erica Nagotko – Curiosity
Anthony Purcell – Civility
Gladys Sartin– Self-Understanding
October 2, 2015 Recipients
Walter Gonsiewski – Self-Understanding
Seyi Olusina – Civility
Skyler Mueller – Courageous
Anastasia Matusiewicz – Ut Prosim
Natasha Laramie – Curiosity
Vera Kidd – Curiosity
Residence Life Resource Officer John Tarter – Ut Prosim
Robby Moser – Ut Prosim
March, 2015 Recipients
Juan de la Rosa Diaz – Courageous
Jamaica Sykes – Curiosity
Luke Birch –
Self-Understanding and Integrity
Jake Voorhees – Ut Prosim
Turki Saad Al-Zahrani – Civility
Captain Jim Snyder – Courageous Leadership
February, 2015 Recipients
Catherine Goggins – Courageous
Allison Laclede – Curiosity
Samuel Aguilar Chavez –
Self-Understanding and Integrity
Larissa Perara – Ut Prosim
Lauren Cashman – Civility
Jay Read – Civility
Scott Busiel – Self–understanding and Integrity
Robin Boucher – Curiosity
Tricia Smith – Ut Prosim