The Office of Advancement farewells a long-serving staff member.
For over 19 years the University of New England has had the same face of Alumni Relations - Jennifer Miller. After such a rich career that has produced fond memories and has equipped her with an exceptional knowledge of the university and close relationships with the UNE community, Jennifer has retired.
Having worked with Jennifer for a short but significant part of that time, I was honoured to sit with her and hear more about her life and her time at UNE as both student and staff member.
Originally from South Grafton, Jennifer had always been interested in learning. During school she was doing an academic program taking studies in Latin, English, Humanities and Music (voice was her instrument of choice).
“I applied for scholarships because I wouldn’t have been able to go to university without one. I knew I’d have to re-locate and looked forward to it.
“I received an offer to take up a 3 year librarian course in Wagga or a 4 year teaching course at UNE. Of course I chose the 4 year course!”
Thus began Jennifer’s connection to the University of New England.
Studying a Bachelor of Arts majoring in English and History, Jennifer lived in Alpha Block of Wright College (which had been taken over for the year by Duval College ) with 38 other first year females, before moving to Duval College for the next two years, and then to a shared house in town while completing a DipEd.
Her time as a college student was like most – entertaining, community-filled and fun.
“I remember going to a Rugby Union game and the Wright College team was playing. The name of the team, ‘Phuqued’, raised a few eyebrows as you can imagine. The game was held at the dog track on the same day as greyhound racing; regularly through the game, play was stopped so the dogs could race. When finished, the game would kick back up again.”
Once her studies were completed, Jennifer stayed connected to the education sector as a high school teacher. After having lived in Dubbo for a number of years, Jennifer and her family eventually came to Armidale where she took up a position at TAFE teaching office administration and communications and later as an Education Officer in the Teaching and Learning Unit, a role she loved.
When the position at UNE came up, the allure of a full time role at an institution she had so many connections to (and the chance to take up a job which included international travel) was too good to pass up.
“I always had in the back of mind that it would be good to have a job at UNE. I had studied there and really enjoyed my time there. I knew people and had networks that I’d developed over time spent working in education in the Western and New England/North West regions that were relevant to the job.”
There is no doubt that UNE has played a big part in Jennifer’s life.
“There’s no escaping it. In terms of how my life is so intertwined with UNE, I’ve been an internal, full-time, straight-out-of-school student; I’ve been the “average” external student studying a Masters part time in my thirties, with small children, while working full time; and I’ve been a member of staff.
“This has given me an understanding of where people are coming from in terms of why they have connections to UNE.”
This is perhaps why Jennifer has had such a significant impact on the Advancement department at the University.
Her favourite thing about working in the role?
“The best part of the job is the interaction you have with people. Not just alumni but the staff you work with on campus. I’ve also very much enjoyed getting to know current students as a member of the Senior Common Room at Duval.”
Jennifer has most definitely left her footprint on the UNE network and community. As for her retirement plans, all of her new-found time will be spent on volunteering (a pastime of her parents), dabbling in her much-loved interest in art, visiting long-held friends and travel.
“Of course, there’s always visiting the children and annoying them!”
Adapting to her retirement will be a new type of challenge for Jennifer who is used to routine and structure having worked since 1975. In Jennifer’s case though, it will be hard for her to get bored.
“There is no doubt I am a lifelong learner.
“If you have an interest, it doesn’t matter what it is, you should seek to learn more. I may even do a PhD now – it’s in the back of my mind so we’ll wait and see!”
Jennifer is a woman of intellect, sharp wit and an incredible understanding of the English language (much to the mixed dismay and delight of her colleagues who rely on her editing skills). Having given so much invaluable insight into the people, history and life of UNE to many who have crossed her path, it’s hard to imagine what an Alumni office without Jennifer will be like.
As always though, Jennifer left me with a true-to-form final comment for all of you, our UNE alumni.
Author: Alexandra Cook
Office of Advancement
02 6773 2933