Miller Receives Diploma During Razorbug Diploma Tour

July 03, 2024

Jennifer Miller of DeWitt received her framed diploma for a University of Arkansas bachelor's degree in interdisciplinary studies Monday during a stop on the Razorbug Diploma Tour. Alishia Ferguson presented the diploma on behalf of the social work program in the Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences.

Miller is a peer support specialist for the Arkansas County Circuit Court and also works at Kelly’s On the Square.

The Razorbug Diploma Tour takes place during two weeks in the summer when the Razorbug travels the state so faculty and staff can present diplomas to students who earned their degrees online without leaving their homes, job, and families.

The University of Arkansas posted a Student Success article on Miller where Miller speaks about her recovery and decisions leading her along her educational journey. The article is published at and states:

“Student Turns Former Dependence into Independence

There are times when traumatic life experiences become gateways to a new and brighter future. Jennifer Miller’s personal struggle and triumph over addiction have led her to a career that will help others who still fight a dependence on damaging substances.

Miller, 45, is a peer support specialist for the Arkansas County Circuit Court in DeWitt, where she assists Drug Court members and helps people enter rehab. On top of this time-consuming and demanding profession, she plans to graduate in May with her Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies delivered online and, next fall, will begin work toward a master’s degree in the same major.

“I attempted college after high school, but I made some bad choices in life that took me down a road that just was not right for me, you know?” Miller said. “I was an addict for 11 years, and I've been in recovery now for six years. I recover out loud to help others. That's why I love my job, so I can help others beat it, too.”

Prior to working at the Arkansas County Circuit Court, Miller worked as a librarian at the DeWitt campus of University of Arkansas Phillips Community College. While there, she earned associate degrees in general education and behavioral health. For Miller, simultaneously working a full-time job, interacting with family, and returning to college seemed impossible. It required that she learn how to manage her time so that neither classes nor family were neglected, she said.

“Coming from where I was in life and taking the steps to complete my degree is something that I will always be proud of,” Miller said. “After being out of school for over 20 years, I never would have thought that I would have the grades I do. It has been a struggle at times, but I have learned to take small steps throughout each day, and the small steps will lead me to my goals. Each day that I spend learning and completing my assignments is another day closer to graduation. I am honored to be given this opportunity to study and learn here at the University of Arkansas.”

A mother of three and a grandmother of seven, Miller is the first and currently only member of her family to attend college. She hopes to serve as an example to them and to everyone who may believe that earning a college degree is an impossible dream, proving that it is never too late to succeed.

“When I started, I had no idea how to even use a computer,” Miller recalled. “They didn't have laptops the first time I was in school. I learned how to type on a typewriter. I just inspired myself. I wasn't an upstanding mother, so I wanted to do different with my grandkids so they could have somebody in life to look up to.”

As part of her desire to inspire others and with help from many instructors in her program, Miller pushes herself in new and challenging directions, including learning online. This determination to succeed, combined with the responsive guidance of her instructors, helped her get the most out of her interdisciplinary studies degree plan.

“The interdisciplinary degree allows us to look at problems from a multidisciplinary angle,” Miller said. “Instead of just looking at problems head on, we can pull from different areas. In the job I'm doing now, I've been where the people that I'm helping have been. I work with the prosecutor in my county, and I work with the public defender. We're able to pool our ideas together to get the best possible help for the person.”

Finding enjoyment and value in her classes is also important to Miller, she said. Every class exposes her to relevant knowledge, skills, and information that she can use in real-time.

“My favorite class was addiction in the family,” Miller said. “That class opened my eyes to many factors, like where my addiction might have come from, so that class really helped me pinpoint things. [Clinical Associate Professor] Carly Franklin—she's one of the child advocacy teachers—I've had a lot of classes with her. The information she's given me has really been beneficial. With the court, the juveniles go before we do. I can see the information that I've learned from her being done with the juveniles who are in our system.”

Franklin, who stated that she has observed Miller over multiple semesters, considered it a “privilege” to have Miller in her classes.

“In my online social work courses, I have taught many students pursuing the Interdisciplinary Studies (IDST) online degree program,” Franklin said. “IDST students bring unique and holistic perspectives to the learning that are immensely valuable to their peers and the overall course experience. Jennifer’s compassion and commitment to her studies are evidenced by her consistently thoughtful analysis of complex topics in class discussions and activities. I have no doubt that she will be a powerful resource to the communities she will serve in her future career.”

After eventually obtaining her graduate degree, Miller hopes to move into the field of addiction counseling.

“After grad school, I really want to be able to counsel,” Miller said. “I want to be an addiction counselor. I want to work with people that have the problems that I had. I'll hopefully have my own place doing this. That's my goal. That's what I want to do.”

Miller is one of 29 online students to receive the W.E. Manning Memorial Scholarship for online U of A students for the 2023-2024 academic year. The scholarship began with small gifts from many people who passionately believe in the transformative power of education. It was created in 2018 to financially help students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate online degree programs. Other student stories such as this can be found on the Student Success page.

“I didn't even know that you could get scholarships,” Miller said. “I didn't even know what a scholarship was. But when I applied, I just answered all the questions truthfully. I was very shocked to receive it, I mean, only a certain amount of people get the scholarship, and I was chosen. With this scholarship, I'm able to grow in my education. It helps me purchase whatever I need for class, like books. It's something to help me get through this last semester of school.”