Yet from every perch and perspective, nothing Milleson has experienced at AC has satisfied her more than that which she believes has remained altogether constant: her colleagues’ passion for service to students.
“I’ve had the unique perspective of working in a lot of different areas here at AC,” the associate professor of speech communications said. “I can look back at all of the co-workers I’ve worked with and know, without a doubt, the number one thing that everybody wants to figure out is how to make a student’s life better today.
“They constantly ask what they can give of their time, talent and resources to make sure that the goals the students had when they walked in those doors are met or exceeded. It’s dedication like this that sets Amarillo College apart and makes me so proud to be part of it.”
For Milleson, a native of Muleshoe, Texas, service, volunteerism and prioritizing student success have gone hand-in-hand with the career in higher education she began in 1996 at Odessa College, but perhaps even more so since her arrival at AC. Her track record at the forefront of numerous AC projects, campaigns and endeavors, large and small, is distinctive.
For example, she has sponsored Badger Hearts, an organization of students who support youth aging out of foster care; she’s led enlightening student sojourns overseas; helped direct the now-dormant Common Reader program that utilized one book to help ease the transition of new students to the College environment; and she mentors new faculty immersed in professional development activities through the College’s cohort-based Teaching for Transformation initiative.
While the list could go on, including a wealth of contributions to institutional committees, she has foremost and wholeheartedly embraced AC’s Culture of Caring, which aims to eliminate barriers by loving students to success.
“I love the Culture of Caring. It’s who we are today as a College, and it’s my personal calling,” Milleson said. “I don’t think I would be this happy at any other place teaching because here I’m allowed to bring my full self into the classroom and truly love on the students.
“If you come into my classroom right now you’ll see students who want a career, who want to do great things in the future, and they’re wanting someone to ignite that passion for learning, to ignite their belief that they can do it.
“Having the opportunity to not leave half of me out of the classroom, really getting full-on with my students and telling them ‘you have value here, you have worth, and by the way, you’re going to learn about speech,’ is wonderful. It’s why Amarillo College is one of the best shining stars in the world, in my opinion.”
Upon graduating from West Texas A&M University with a bachelor’s degree in speech and public relations, Milleson became a recruiter for Odessa College. She covered the vast and challenging southern half of Texas in that job, yet still found time to serve on the boards of directors for Leadership Odessa and Downtown Odessa, the latter over which she presided.
During her four years in Odessa, she also managed to earn a master’s degree in higher education administration through Texas Tech University, where she additionally undertook a doctoral degree, completing all but the dissertation.
Her next career stop was at her alma mater, WTAMU, where for two years she helped direct the Student Activities Council while teaching classes in communication. For good measure, she held down a spot on the board of directors for the WTAMU Alumni Association.
Since making her home in Amarillo, she has been immersed in the Junior League of Amarillo, an organization of women devoted to making the community a better place to live largely by combating generational poverty among children. Milleson presently serves as vice president of fundraising.
Prior to all she’s accomplished professionally, Milleson wore yet another hat, one with floppy ears. She portrayed the Mule mascot during her senior year at Muleshoe High and likes to jest, “I graduated as the ass of my class.” But despite that fuzzy costume, she is anything but mulish.
“I personally love being surrounded by people who question my ideas,” she says. “I think the greatest thing that happens when you work in higher education is you are surrounded by people who are continually learning and questioning how to use information to the benefit of everybody. I teach students how to be better communicators, not what to think.
“When all of the civil unrest was happening last year, we talked about it in class. I told students that regardless of where they fall on the political spectrum, their voices have meaning and a place in the conversation. People don’t have to agree with you, but you need to know enough about how to tell your story that people want to listen to you.”