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November 25, 2014 – This month’s featured student is Fenika Miller, a property manager and the chair of Houston County’s Democratic Committee. Miller is a nontraditional student who decided to return to Fort Valley State University’s campus to complete her degree. She will graduate in December 2014 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a minor in English.
“The FVSU experience this time around has been the best thing for me,” Miller said. “I love my HBCU.”
Miller has worked for 14 years in affordable management housing, which provides housing for the elderly and individuals on Section 8. She currently works for the STM Property Management group and oversees a portfolio worth a quarter of a million dollars.
Miller has lived in the Middle Georgia area for most of her life. In 1993, she graduated from Perry High School and soon enrolled at Valdosta State University. While in Valdosta, Miller became pregnant with her first child.
“After I became pregnant with my daughter, I didn’t think that staying in Valdosta would provide me with the best support for myself or my child,” Miller said, “So, I decided to come to FVSU.”
Miller transferred from Valdosta State to FVSU in 1995. She said the experience of attending FVSU was a surprise.
“Coming to FVSU was a culture shock because I had not had the experience of attending an HBCU. It was different, but I didn’t get to experience the full college HBCU life at that time as far as the social aspect, because I was focused on working, attending school and raising my child.”
Miller said it wasn’t long before she became overwhelmed by her efforts to balance work, school and raising her daughter, so she stopped attending FVSU in 1997.
In 2000, Miller started working in affordable housing and in 2002, she received her real estate license. Soon, she married and had a son.
In 2008, Miller became the first woman and African-American woman to be elected the chairperson of the Houston County Democratic Committee.
“I’m very active in state and local politics in the local democratic committee,” Miller said. “I was elected for my first two-year term 2008, and let my term expire. I didn’t run again, until 2012.” Miller said. “This is my second non-consecutive term.”
In 2012, Miller decided to complete her degree. Even though she was highly successful and preached to her children about earning their education in order to succeed in life, Miller also wanted to serve as an example by re-enrolling.
“I am successful, but my husband and I instilled that standard of education excellence, and we want our children to pursue the same goal,” the Houston Democratic chair said. “It was a little intimidating at first, being the only adult in the classroom, along with the instructor,” Miller said.
Miller said she soon began to enjoy her time on campus.
“My time at FVSU has absolutely been rewarding,” Millers said. “I loved interacting with the students, and being able to provide a different prospective. I have grown to love it. It’s quite a bit trying to balance full-time job, course load, political service, and family as well. But, I wanted to graduate in 2014. It’s been three years since I’ve been re-enrolled at Fort Valley and the most difficult part of it was taking all the classes. My time on FVSU’s campus has stretched me, helped me to communicate more, and enhanced my skills.”
The property manager had advice for other nontraditional students.
“Just to do it,” she said. “Don’t be afraid. I didn’t let anything deter me from completing my education and I have an successful career. But, if I tried to transition out of this career without a college degree, it would have been more difficult. It’s never too late, especially for women because going back to school can be frightening. We have an automatic fear (some of us) fear of success and the unknown. We are afraid that we won’t have the necessary support to do this, especially if we have small kids. My kids were older when I re-enrolled, but don’t let anything deter you.”
She had this final piece of advice for current students.
“For students on campus, I would tell them to take their education seriously,” she said. “That’s one of the things that concerns me with students I’ve encountered. I had to remember that I was their age once too. But, please take your education seriously. It can carry you further than you imagine because of the nature of global competition, or competition within our state. You have to have the tools and resources to set yourselves apart from every other candidate from that position. Take advantage of all the opportunities in front of you now.”
Christina D. Milton, public relations specialist
Fort Valley State University
Office of Marketing and Communications