Bryanna Miller has already compiled a long list of achievements during her nearly three years at the University of Virginia. The history major is an Echols Scholar, president of the Black Student Alliance and a fellow of the Meriwether Lewis Institute for Citizen Leadership.
Earlier this month she added a new entry to her résumé: student member of UVA’s Board of Visitors.
The BOV elected her to the body at its March 2 meeting. Miller, a first-generation college student from Lewes, Delaware, was with friends in 1 West Lawn when she got the news. She stepped out onto the Lawn to call her mother and share the news.
“She’s like ‘Bryanna, why did you call me? I have a meeting in 10 minutes and I’m crying at my desk,” Miller said. “It was a really fantastic moment. She’s really proud of me.”
As the board’s non-voting student representative, Miller’s role is to be a voice for the student body and share board business with her classmates. Just how she will do that is a big part of her agenda.
“My main goal is to be an effective translator between the board and the student body,” she said earlier this week in the lobby of Alderman Library.
Miller observed her first BOV meeting during her first year.
“I couldn’t understand what was happening in that meeting, and that’s unfortunate,” she said. “I think students should be able to go to those meetings and have a full understanding of what is going on, even if they don’t have the packet right in front of them, and I think part of that falls to the student member, after the meetings, to translate to students, to develop communication strategies to make sure the board’s decisions are being effectively communicated.”
That, she said, is especially important as the University searches for its next president and continues its strategic planning process.
To ease her transition, Miller is meeting with the outgoing student representative, law student Phoebe Willis. Because students have only a one-year appointment, Miller is already thinking of ways to pass the baton to her successor.
“I want to leave behind a set of protocols for the next student member to say, ‘If the board has made a decision on tuition, here are some student groups that you should consider reaching out to; here are some media outlets that might be interested; here is a draft of a statement that we released last time.’”
Miller’s curious nature led her to become a regular at Board of Visitors meetings. The more she attended, the more fascinated she became with the work and its impact.
“Even as a first-year, I recognized there were changes that needed to be made, and it had to be strategic, it had to be planned,” she said. “Progress isn’t made randomly. You have to generate that, you have to plan for it, and so I think that is what interested me. They have the power to plan and to set things into motion.”
When not attending class, Miller also serves as a College of Arts & Sciences representative to Student Council and is a member of both the Honor Audit Commission and the Undergraduate Admissions Advisory Committee.
With all of that activity, she said she came into her third year thinking, “In my fourth year, I’m going to retire. I am going to enjoy being a student. I’m going to really get into my studies. I’m not going to have any leadership roles at UVA,” she said.
That all changed the morning applications for the student BOV position were due.
“Emily Lodge, who is the current president of Student Council, texted me and said, ‘Hey, Bryanna, I was talking with Phoebe the other day, and she asked me who I thought could be a good student member of the board and I immediately thought of you,’” she wrote. “I hope you are applying.”
“Without that text message, I would not be sitting here,” Miller said. “I would not have applied. I think it just shows the power of encouraging people and I’m so grateful to her.”
Miller said she plans to continue attending board meetings as an observer for the rest of the school year. She will take her seat at the board table when she assumes her term on June 1.