Women in Leadership – Kate Miller


Kate Miller
Professor, Geology & Geophysics
Dean, College of Geosciences
Eller O&M Building, Room 202
3115 TAMU
College Station, Texas 77843-3115


What made you decide to become an administrator?

I was given an opportunity to serve as an interim department chair, and much too my surprise, I discovered that not only did I enjoy administrative work but that I had a talent for it. The interim job became permanent. The rest is history.

What is the most rewarding aspect of being an administrator?

The most rewarding aspect of being an administrator is helping others accomplish their goals and seeing big projects come to fruition. There is nothing like having a faculty member or student come to you with a problem that seems overwhelming to them, and the satisfaction you get when you solve it by making a single phone call or sending an email that gets them the help they need. I also enjoy starting big programs and seeing them come to fruition, such as a new degree program, a STEM teacher education program, or a large collaborative interdisciplinary research initiative. The time frame for success is usually much shorter than that for obtaining research results – at least in my field. Not quite instant gratification, but closer.

What is the most challenging aspect of being an administrator?

The most challenging aspect of being an administrator is learning to not take anything personally. In an administrative role, you often hear only the complaints and bad news. It is your job to show appreciation for others, and they will rarely express appreciation for you. So, you have to know in your heart that when bad news and complaints come, they are directed at the person in the role, not you. Your rewards have to come from inside of you.

What were the choices you made (and why) related to maintaining (or not maintaining) your scholarship as you took on an administrative role?

For 10 years, I carried administrative appointments that represented a one-third to one-half time commitment. This made it possible to maintain a research effort. Another factor is that all my research either happens in the field using data acquisition systems from a national facility that also provides technical support, or on computers that are supported by system administrators. Thus, I could focus on grant and manuscript writing, data analysis, and student mentoring more than someone who is also trying to maintain a lab on their own. As dean, I find it nearly impossible to get much research done, even though I have a post-doc working with me. I have recently realized that I struggle with this not so much for a lack of time, but because the way one thinks about administration is so different from the way one thinks about research, and I can’t switch gears between the two very quickly.

How have you balanced your personal life with your career?

With great day care and traveling grandparents. I carried administrative appointments that represented a one-third to one-half time commitment while my son was in school, so that gave me nearly the same flexibility as a regular faculty member to disappear at lunch to exercise, make runs to the pediatrician, or take my son to after school activities. I don’t typically work more than 50 hours a week. I’m just not physically able to do it. Anyway, even if I’m cooking, or running, or playing tennis, my subconscious is processing work-related activity, and I come back to whatever I left in the office with a fresh view.

What advice would you give to women faculty who are considering administration?

First, take on a part time administrative appointment to see if you will enjoy it. You will discover very quickly whether you do or not. Second, make sure you always have a “big” administrative project that allows you to build something new in the works. Then on the days when the brush fires and paperwork get you down, you will always have a creative administrative project to turn to.