Former Transfer Student Earns Prestigious Scholarship

by Leah Hill, Transfer Ambassador

Adam Miller and Bill Nye the Science Guy

A bright bow tie and a live-wire personality might be the first features a person notices when meeting Adam Miller. Complementing his suave style is an array of educational achievements as well as many service-oriented experiences. Miller a former Metropolitan Community College and 2012 K-State alum, was recently awarded a Fulbright U.S. Student Grant.

“It’s kind of surreal still,” Miller said.

The prestigious international award allows students to live abroad in one of 135 countries while studying or conducting research. In March of 2015, Miller will fly to Argentina where he will work as an English Teaching Assistant and fulfill yet another one of his dreams.

At the age of 27, the Overland Park native has already taught Spanish to classrooms of students, studied in Malaga, Spain for a semester, and spent over a year as a K-State admissions representative to multicultural students. Currently, he oversees 120 students as part of Kauffman Scholars Incorporated.

“My goal setting goal process is just to take things that seem out of reach, unbelievable and outlandish and just go get ’em,” Miller said.

His experiences at Metropolitan Community College in Lee’s Summit, Missouri were stepping stones in his education, boosting him closer to achieving his dreams.

“I did that for two years and knocked out most of my prerequisite courses and then went on to K-State,” he said.

Sometimes transfer students may feel overlooked or undervalued when they transition to a new educational environment. Miller said it is important to get involved early to make the most of the college experience.

“When I transferred in, I don’t think there were transfer ambassadors,” Miller said. “That’s helped a lot as far as getting transfer students acclimated and making them feel welcome. It was not like I never felt welcome, but I felt like I was kind of on my own for a little bit.”

Organizations such as the Transfer Ambassador Program seek to serve the unique needs of transfer students by providing comfortable transition to life at K-State. The organization gives transfer students an opportunity to become involved in campus life right away. 

“A lot of [transfer] students think, ‘No, I’m coming from a community college. I can’t make it,’” Miller said. “I’m like, I’m living proof that you can.” 

The proof lies in his bachelor of arts degree in Hispanic studies and master's degree in Spanish language acquisition, romance languagesliteraturesand linguistics.

Although Miller completed post-graduate work, that wasn’t always his plan.

“The reason I started my master’s is funny,” Miller said. “I lost at a game of rock-paper-scissors to my mom.”

According to Miller, his mother, Marjorie, had never won against him in rock-paper-scissors.

“I’m really good at rock paper scissors—like, I’m really good. Abnormally good.”

Confident in his abilities, he agreed to make a deal with his mother.

 “The deal was if I win, I get a car for graduating,” he said. However, the deal was only valid if he lost, he didn’t get a car and he had to go to graduate school.

The two played the best two out of three.

“We had one a piece. We threw the same hand seven times in a row. Finally she threw a rock, I threw scissors, and she got me.”

While pursuing his master’s right away may not have been on his radar, it opened many doors for him.

“By losing I have won. It’s the best decision of my life,” Miller said.

Losing a game of rock-paper-scissor wasn’t the only instance where Miller was not the outright winner.

“I learned Spanish for a girl when I was 15,” Miller said. “I wanted to ask her out on date, and she didn’t speak English...I didn’t get the girl, but found out I was really good at Spanish.”

In fact, it was that very story he used for the Fulbright application. As it turns out, losing may prepare you for opportunities later in life. Those opportunities may even take the form of traveling abroad.

As Miller travels to Argentina, changes will be plenty.

“I expect to be thrown out of my comfort zone and I love that; I hate being comfortable,” Miller said. “I know that sounds very strange, but I like being caught off guard. I think that’s the most beautiful part of about life. It’s so unexpected.”  

He has never been to South America, and he is eager to engage with people from another country.

“I’m looking forward to meeting different people, different walks of life. It’s something that makes you appreciate your own culture, and different cultures as well.”

One way he will be immersed into a new culture is through interacting with students.

“I’m excited to get back in the classroom,” Miller said. “I love teaching. Probably one of my favorite things while I was in grad school was teaching. I didn’t think I would like it. But I loved it. I craved creating lesson plans, watching people learn.”

As part of the Fulbright program, he hopes to work on civic engagement projects. He said there are organizations for wildlife preservation, which he’s eager to join. He’s also seeking to research sociolinguistics during his stay in Argentina.

Such research would prepare him for his next dream: doctoral studies in linguistics. Eventually, Miller says he wants to put Rosetta Stone out of business.

“I have a little entrepreneurial flair,” Miller said.

No matter what the dream, where students begin, or what they want to accomplish, Miller proves dreams can be achieved.

“Work hard enough, get the right people backing you, there’s no limit to what you can do.”

Photo:  Adam Miller poses with Bill Nye the Science Guy at a K-State event.