Kaitlin Miller

Kaitlin Miller

Kaitlin Miller is a health sciences major from Rochester, MN

Hometown: Rochester, MN

Year: Expected graduation: 2022

Major: Health sciences

What scholarships did you receive and why did you receive them? How has the financial support impacted your experience at NIU?
I received a merit scholarship when I first entered NIU, which took a big weight off my shoulders. This meant that instead of getting a job, I could pursue my love of running and join the cross country and track teams! The following year I received the Honors Excellence Award for my dedication to the University Honors Program and good grades, again helping me feel like I could engage in more extracurriculars and leadership experiences throughout my undergraduate career. This last year at NIU, I have received more financial support than I thought possible and am eternally grateful for it. I am an Honors Fellow, which provides a partial tuition waiver, as well as a recipient of an NIU Alumni Association Scholarship. Both awards were given to me in honor of my academic merit and involvement in leadership experiences at NIU. They either required a successful interview or a strong letter of recommendation from a professor. In addition, for my final year as an NIU athlete, I was put on a partial athletic scholarship. My coach said this scholarship was a very small token of his appreciation for what I have brought to the NIU cross country program.

What did you want to be when you were growing up? Are you pursuing that as a major, or have you taken another path?
I remember having a lot of different ideas about what I wanted to be. I was thinking veterinarian, neurosurgeon, molecular biologist and other similar fields. It was my freshman year of high school that I really decided physical therapy was the path for me. 

What is your major (and/or minor) and why did you decide on this course of study?
My major is health sciences with an emphasis in pre-physical therapy. I have a minor in biological sciences. I chose this course of study primarily because of my father's experiences with physical therapy. He is an ultra-triathlete, so he is constantly swimming, biking and running distances that I would never dream of doing! When he was out biking one day, what we can only assume was a distracted driver hit him. He was left unconscious on the road, until someone stopped to call 911. He came out of the accident with countless injuries and a shattered bike helmet—the only reason he is still alive. He was seeing several health care professionals until he was released back home. The only health care worker who stuck with him until he was fully healed was his physical therapist, who helped get him back to competing in ultra-triathlons in only a year. Seeing the effect that a physical therapist can have on a patient’s life was unbelievable to me.

What has been something you have found pleasantly surprising about your experience at NIU?
I had no idea the amount of opportunities that NIU would provide to me! I was able to complete research in the molecular biology lab my first semester freshman year. This research only continued with my University Honors capstone project and a research assistant job my senior year. I was also able to serve on a couple boards, the Huskie Student Advisory Board and Student Athletic Advisory Committee. Finally, I have been able to hold leadership positions, which was a big goal of mine coming into college. My biggest leadership experience has been as an Honors Fellow, which has provided me with countless necessary skills as I move into a Doctor of Physical Therapy program next year.

How have you connected with other students to study for classes, meet new people or form new friendships?
I was very lucky to be on an athletic team because it instantly gave me 20 best friends. I was also very lucky to meet a friend in my first chemistry class with the same major who was also graduating in three years, meaning we were in just about every class together. Before COVID hit, we would frequently help each other with homework and study for upcoming exams. I found that becoming more involved in the university is the easiest way to meet new people. For example, when I became a University Honors Fellow, I was able to connect with a couple of the other fellows and form friendships that way.

Are you involved in any student organizations, mentoring programs or extra-curricular activities? If so, which ones? How have they added to your experience as a Huskie?
My freshman year, I was a part of Research Rookies. This experience helped me realize that research is something I am very passionate about and want to continue doing throughout my life. I was a part of the Pre-PT Club, but it unfortunately was unable to stay active throughout COVID. I was a part of the Huskie Student Advisory Board last year, which aimed to improve the experience of first-year students. This helped me realize that we all come from unique backgrounds and when we all come together on a project, it is much more successful than it would have been individually. I am also on the Student Athletic Advisory Committee. This group hopes to improve the overall experience for student-athletes. This has given me the opportunity to come up with unique ideas for student-athletes, as well as represent each and every girl on the cross country team. I am also an Honors Fellow, where I help the staff with various tasks and assist with design, implementation and evaluation of Honors-exclusive programming. Another big extracurricular activity is athletics! I am on the cross country and track teams, where we compete year-round. This has helped me develop very strong time management skills, as well as an extreme amount of dedication. Throughout my experience in athletics, I've also learned that I used to define success incorrectly. I now know that success is not about the end result, but the process of getting there.

Who has been one of your favorite instructors/professors and why? What course did they teach?
My favorite instructor has definitely been Dr. David Ballantine. He taught my CHEM 211H course. He helped me realize that office hours are a resource. I was able to get out of my comfort zone and actually utilize my professor's knowledge! He also taught me that I should strive to know every topic as deeply as possible; it helps significantly moving forward in any class.

Where is your favorite spot on campus or in the community? Why are you drawn to it?
Off campus, I'm a big fan of Barb City Bagels. It's a great place to casually grab a bite to eat or some coffee and work on homework. On campus, I love the Holmes Student Center. It's the perfect environment for studying!

What advice would you give to a student who is applying to colleges?
When applying to colleges, make sure you pick one that will give you the opportunities you want. Not all colleges offer as many experiences as NIU does! 

Coming to college, what is something that you have had to learn to do differently?
I have learned that you can't breeze through courses only knowing half of the topics you're learning well. Everything really does build off of each other, so I've learned to be very proactive and understand things the first time I hear them. This has often meant going to office hours, emailing professors with questions or getting together with others to build on each other's knowledge. 

What do you do to relax or recharge?
I use the Netflix party feature a lot to watch shows and movies with my fiancé, who is currently rotating between classes at Purdue and a job in Arizona. I also love cooking and baking; my newest passion in the kitchen is making bread! 

Is there anything else you'd like to share about your NIU Huskie story?
After I graduate this spring, I will be headed off to the University of Iowa to get my Doctor of Physical Therapy. The University of Iowa has a very highly ranked DPT program. I would not have been able to get into such an incredible program without the experiences and resources that NIU has given me. I am immensely grateful for everything!

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