After a year or two, he had worked his way up to director, chef, and then general manager.
While Miller was enrolled part-time in school, he took a semester off when he was given the new position of general manager.
“Next thing I know, seven years have passed,” Miller said.
These seven years have not been bad, far from it.
“I learned what true leadership is and is not, made friends with colleagues and during that time found my lovely wife with whom I now have two beautiful children” , Miller said. “During my time as CEO, my wife went to graduate school while working as a nurse.”
While Miller worked to support their family, his wife earned her graduate degree after a grueling course load and several hundred internship hours. Once she was done, the couple decided it was her turn.
“We have a wonderful partnership where we really support each other,” Miller said.
Without hesitation, he started with some prerequisite courses at the Alamo Colleges and then enrolled at UTSA to complete his degree and move towards a career in physical therapy.
Miller faced several hurdles while pursuing her new career, including enrolling at UTSA in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Meanwhile, her son was in a distant kindergarten and he had a newborn daughter.
He hadn’t lost sight of the fact that he was twice the age of many of his classmates. Only 30% of UTSA’s spring 2022 undergraduate class are between the ages of 23 and 49.
“With my time in the restaurant business, I had been in this type of environment for quite some time,” Miller said. “I also felt like I had an advantage in some ways because I knew what I was aiming for and I was motivated.”
Miller bonded with professors and classmates. At a time when most of his classmates were shy and the cameras tended to be turned off during class, he was one of the few whose camera was always on and he was always engaged. This participation opened doors for him, such as a position as vice-president of the Pre-Physical Therapy Society at UTSA.
“Society was my social side of college,” Miller said. “We worked hard to come together at a time when everyone was so isolated.”
Miller spearheaded the society’s volunteer initiatives, which allowed her classmates to connect safely in person. He has also participated in general meetings and other events, including workshops, baking activities, yoga classes and more.
“Physiotherapy can be so competitive,” Miller said. “You need all the advantages you can find to stand out. Having a background in business management, I felt my leadership was strong, but I had to relate it to PT. It was a good way to do it.
The company also allowed him to make connections outside of UTSA, and that helped him land a life-changing internship.
“A guest speaker at our society’s general meeting mentioned that one of the things he liked to see on the nominations was a student getting involved in research. This led me to pursue a research opportunity at UT Health San Antonio,” Miller said. “I spent nearly two hours writing this beautiful post about my passion for their cause and how I thought it could support my career journey.”
After submitting the post to their website, Miller was immediately hit with an auto-reply rejection. They weren’t accepting interns because of COVID-19.
He suspects, however, that his email must have been sent to someone in the department, because about a month later someone contacted him with a recommendation for an opportunity very close.
“dr. Daniel Hughes from the Institute of Health Promotion and Research at UT Health San Antonio asked me to join his lab after reading this email,” Miller said. “I work with him once a week, and it’s a great way to learn about research, contribute to a great cause, and connect at one of my dream schools.”
Miller’s lab experience also opened his eyes to other aspects of physical therapy. “I love that there is still so much to learn about the body’s response to intervention, and that we have the opportunity to contribute to that,” Miller said.
While he still aims to work in an outpatient physiotherapy setting, he keeps an open mind for a future way to merge practice with research.
“I see it as very rewarding,” Miller said. “Feeling that you can accomplish something by helping a patient who is suffering, but also helping on a large scale.”
Miller will graduate in May with his bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, and he plans to apply to physical therapy schools when application cycles open in July so he can start in 2023.
“I have a few prerequisites left, but having completed my degree requirements, I want to perform in May,” Miller said.
When he crosses the stage, he will do so alongside thousands of other first-generation college graduates. About 45% of students at the university will be the first in their families to graduate with a bachelor’s degree, opening doors for themselves and their families.
As a first-generation college student, Miller values family ties and gives his parents the moment to see their son walk through the stage. Every step of the way, Miller leaned on his family and friends and credited them for his successes.
“The tremendous support from my family unit is what motivated me, to want to better my life and the lives of them,” Miller said. “I’ve had a lot of success in catering, but the hours are really long and it’s hard for a young family.