Student Spotlight: Avianna Miller C’23

Avianna Miller C’23

What attracted you to Drew?

I was attracted to Drew because of the liberal arts environment and small class sizes.  I also had some awareness of the art department from my sister, who previously attended Drew and graduated with a Studio Art major.

Did you know what you wanted to major in when you started at Drew?

Before I started at Drew, I knew I wanted to major in Studio Art and study a related discipline, but it was not until I met with Media and Communications Professor Dr. Jeremy Blatter that I discovered I wanted to also major in Media & Communications and connect theory with practice in this way.

Why studio art and media and communications?

After taking a few introductory art courses with the wonderful art department faculty at Drew, I became attracted to photography and digital media specifically, leading to my concentration within the Studio Art major and an additional Photography minor.

Within Media & Communications, I was so intrigued with Dr. Blatter’s Introduction to Media Studies course and was excited to find both a connection to my practice in the arts and room for a more specialized interest in feminist film theory to develop, which I paired with a Film Studies minor.

Did you have an idea of a dream job when you started at Drew?

When I first started at Drew, I thought I might go into a teaching position with art, whether that be at a high school or college level.  Now, I think I am more interested in being part of a community organization that uses the arts for access and organizing, specifically with book arts as the focus.

Have you done any internships?

During this past summer, I interned with the Center for Book Arts, an arts non-profit based in New York that is focused on the appreciation and exploration of the book as an art object.  As the Marketing Intern, I aided in the archiving of the Center’s press, researched and compiled resources focused on using the arts for change making and community building, and maintained opportunities and event information advertised on the website.  I also had the opportunity to assist with preparation for the Center’s fall programming, designing a brochure to supplement an upcoming exhibition.

Do you have any mentors at Drew?

In terms of my academics, my advisor, Dr. Jeremy Blatter, inspired me to become a Media & Communications major and helped guide me through research preparation for my upcoming Capstone.  I have also had the opportunity to help out at the annual FilmBoot24 program, which Professor Blatter encouraged me to participate in.

I have been fortunate to learn about photography from Professor Rory Mulligan, who supported me in the process of transitioning to making art and having it be critiqued in an online environment during Virtual Time.

I have also been lucky to have Dr. Jonathan Golden as a mentor.  I am currently taking his class on Black-Jewish Relations and completing a related Arts of Respect project, both of which are allowing me to delve deeper into my own Jewish identity and role as a community member.

This summer, I had the incredible opportunity to work with Dr. Rita Keane and Maura Kelly on art historical research through the Digital Humanities Summer Institute.  Looking at Drew’s own copy of the Shahnama, the Persian Book of Kings, we identified characteristics about the manuscript that led us to discover more about how and when it was produced.  I am grateful for the experience I gained through this research and for being able to learn from Dr. Keane’s expertise.

I would also like to acknowledge Amy Sugerman, Assistant Director in the Center for Civic Engagement, who has been so supportive and a great mentor through the Civic Scholars program.

What issue in the world means the most to you?

I am invested in educating myself on how community, equity, access, and justice are negatively affected by policing and immigration policy.  These both happen to be central to a few initiatives that Drew Roosevelt Network has been working on, and I am looking forward to continuing to learn from my peers (specifically DRN Co-heads Marwa Elessawy and Jeehae Park) and become more involved in work that strengthens and prioritizes communities over systems.

What are a few of your favorite memories of Drew?

I have been lucky to meet and interact with so many amazing individuals at Drew, some of who have made every experience a memorable one!  My favorite memories include spending time with the Art History Club, going to see Phantom of the Opera with the Honors program, working at the Archives, and just walking around campus with friends.

How has your journey at Drew been impacted by your invisible disability?

Being diagnosed with an invisible disability later on in adolescence, I found I had to learn about myself all over again and discover ways to navigate my studies as I became more attuned to how I perceived the world around me in a way different than many.  Being someone who is also interested in the art world, this part of my identity led me to become involved with some great opportunities such as Senior Alyssa Sileo’s civic project involving the Drew Theatre and Dance Accessibility Coordinators. I am excited to be serving on its advisory board! This initiative is focused on meeting the needs of individuals like myself who can better engage with performing arts through the inclusion and fine-tuning of access tools.

What advice would you give students who are just starting out that you wish you had when you started?

Put yourself out there and get involved!  Some of the best connections I’ve formed at Drew are from different clubs and student groups I’m involved in, so engaging with your interests in the company of others is always a great idea.

What are your career goals? Where do you hope to be in 5 years?

In 5 years, I hope that I will be attending a MFA program and concentrating in photography and film.  I also hope to be an active participant in community organizing.

Any Fun fact (s) you would like to share?

I have been a vegetarian for my entire life and recently decided to go completely vegan!

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