Showing the Way

Photo by Brandon Parigo, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications

Sandra Miles wants to be inspirational and aspirational

Heading into her freshman year at the University of Central Florida, Sandra Miles had it all figured out. Bachelor’s degree, then grad school and full speed ahead to a high-paying professional career.

Three and a half years later, a voice inside her spoke out, demanding a new direction.

“I realized my heart wasn’t in it,” she said. “It was all about me.” She sat down with a student organization advisor to try to plan a new career direction, one focused on giving rather than getting.

“Well,” the advisor said, “you could do this job.”

And there it was. The woman who was raised in what she calls “a family of nurses and educators” in Jacksonville started to realize what those helping professions were all about. She changed course and started the journey that led earlier this year to her being named vice provost for student affairs — dean of students at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

Among the many educators in her extended family, two relatives served as dean of students at universities – a great uncle and her mother’s cousin. In graduate school, “I finally got it. This is what they’ve been doing. This is who I am – a person helping people, showing them the way through education.”

Miles had been dean of students at Indiana University Purdue University Columbus (IUPUC) in Columbus, Indiana, since 2016. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Central Florida, and a doctorate in higher education administration from Florida State University.

Miles started her UMKC tenure August 1, with a primary responsibility for helping create a highly engaging and exciting student experience.

So, what does that mean? “Students having fun, and learning at the same time, without always realizing it,” Miles said.

She wants to create a high-energy, positive environment on campus, and face-to-face interaction will be a key tactic: “meeting students, understanding           what they want, getting to know them – being both inspirational and aspirational.”

Through the interview and transition processes, she has recognized what she called “a culture of caring” among UMKC faculty and staff – people who are engaged with students and campus life and committed to public service. She wants to cultivate a similar feeling among students – “that what happens here is important.”

And she fully intends to realize her goals. She describes herself as both “ridiculously competitive” and a workaholic, but for all the right reasons. “Making a difference makes it worth it.”

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