Dr. Fayneese Miller announced as HU President


Gino Terrell

Dr. Fayneese Miller is greeted with an applause as she steps to the podium after being formally announced as Hamline University’s 20th President in Klas Center, Kay Fredericks Room on April 7, 2015.

Jackie Bussjaeger, Editor in Chief

After nearly a year of anticipating a new presidential appointment since President Hanson announced her retirement, the students, staff, and faculty of Hamline finally have their answer: the next leader is Dr. Fayneese Miller, the first black and second female president in Hamline history. The committee revealed their decision to the community at an open forum on Tuesday, April 7, where they were able to see and speak with the president elect for the first time.

The Hamline Presidential Search Committee, with the help of search firm Isaacson, Miller, finally came to a decision after an intensive, eight-month, countrywide search involving “dozens and dozens” of potential candidates, according to committee member and Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Bob Klas. They selected Miller, a social psychologist with an extensive academic and public career, as the candidate who best embodies the university’s values and beliefs. Miller will be instated as Hamline’s 20th President this coming July.

Miller has over 30 years of experience in academia, beginning with her own studies in social psychology at Hampton University, Texas Christian University and Yale. She served as a faculty member at Brown University before her appointment as dean of the College of Education and Social Services at the University of Vermont, where she served for the last 10 years. Throughout her career she has served on numerous committees that reflect her variety of interests, including the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, the Mellon Foundation Planning Effort on Minority High Achievement and the Langston Hughes Center for the Arts.

Miller mentioned that Langston Hughes is one of her favorite writers. She quoted a line from his poem “To You” to express her beliefs about the purpose of higher education.

“I give my hopes and dreams to you,” she said. “I think it’s important to give my hopes and dreams to those behind me.”

The daughter of two civil rights activists, Miller spent her childhood in Danville, Virginia, where she remembers how racial segregation and the struggle for social justice influenced her desire to understand different points of view and broaden her knowledge.

“I care about those values that are part and parcel of Hamline University–social justice, civil rights, inclusion–that’s who I am,” she said. “That’s how I was raised.”

Miller spoke about a number of topics, many of them in response to questions posed by the audience during a Q&A session. They ranged in variety from a few serious topics such as the condition of the dorms and the representation of small groups on campus, to more lighthearted topics such as the Twin Cities music scene. However, her most prominent message was that she wants Hamline to become the highest quality institution that it can be, with an emphasis on its elements of social justice and diversity.

In her first 100 days in office, she plans to spend time getting to know the university and its community before making any major decisions or changes. Miller described herself as a systematic worker who gathers information through reaching out and talking to people in the community. In this process, she hopes to gain a few ideas about the university’s needs and what decisions she must make to make to address them.

“We never want to remain stagnant,” she said. “That’s not who we are. That’s not what we want to be. We always want to be doing things to elevate ourselves.”

After her initial speech, Miller opened the floor to questions from the students, staff and faculty in attendance. In response to the question “Why did you choose Hamline?” she said:

“Hamline is me. Someone asked me, ‘why does Hamline need me?’ You don’t need me, but I hope you want me, because [Hamline] fits who I am.”

Klas commented on Miller’s future as HU President:

“We are an urban university,” he said. “We strive to be a beacon for people of color and for first-generation students. She is who we are. She is Hamline University.”