Miller explores the past through off-campus adventures

V'amber Miller cleaning artifacts in the Office of the State Archaeologist
Ve’amber Miller cleaning artifacts in the Office of the State Archaeologist. Republished with permission © 2014 SourceMedia Group, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

By Margo Fritz ’15

Senior year can be a scary time—the real world is bearing down, and students are all too often met with pressure to choose a path and cut out interests that don’t seem to fit. But Cornell encourages and fosters a passion for variety that helps students like Ve’Amber Miller ’15 expand their horizons and become poised for a range of possibilities after Cornell.

Miller, a double major in archaeology and English and Creative Writing from Matteson, Illinois, has taken advantage of Cornell’s One Course At A Time curriculum to study art history in Rome and museum studies in Chicago. She also spent a block working in the Office of the State Archaeologist, and she participated in a summer research project that used 3D technology to virtually reconstruct ancient Mexican tombs.

Q: What opportunities at Cornell have been most important for you?

A: It sounds cheesy, but most—if not all—opportunities I’ve had off-campus and outside of the classroom were best for me. Whether it was a day field trip to a museum to learn more about Iowa’s marine science history (which is more extensive than you’d think) or a trip to Rome, Italy, it was all great.

Also, so many of the professors I’ve been able to bond with here are amazing! Half of the opportunities I’ve been involved with wouldn’t have happened without their advice and guidance.

Q: You spent a block working off campus with the State Archaeologist. What was that like?

A: The Office of the State Archaeologist was a great place to see all the different, passionate people and positions that go into running it—from archivists to educational directors to bioarchaeologists. It also felt great to work on a project and contribute something real. I worked on an exhibit for Lake Darling and its archaeological history.

Q: Tell me about your experiences as a leader of the Archaeology Club.

A: Our biggest annual trip—which we collaborated on with the Olympians this year—is our Chicago trip where we go to the Field Museum and have a backstage tour of their Oversized Collection, visit the Oriental Museum, and get free time to hang in an awesome city.

We also went to a mammoth dig site last year and got a chance to help out there for a day. We’ve also traveled to some very interesting lectures on archaeology at the University of Iowa and have had trips to Iowa City for Archaeology Day.

V'amber Miller at the entrance to Tomb 118
Ve’amber Miller at the entrance to the Mexican tomb where she assisted with 3D imaging to virtually reconstruct the original contents of the site.

Q: Why did you choose Cornell?

Cornell wasn’t at the top of my list when I was applying to colleges at first, actually. When I first visited, it was February and even though I’m from Illinois, winter does not flatter the campus as much as fall or spring does. What drew me in during the visit, though, were a lot of the people I met. One of the best parts was walking down the Ped Mall with my tour guide as she said hi to almost every other person. I was slowly drawn to Cornell and I was impressed by One Course At A Time, and by the following spring I was ready to enroll.

Q: Are you happy with your choice?

I’m so happy that I decided to come here. I’ve grown as a person, met so many driven and passionate and kind people, had small classes, had many more opportunities to go off-campus than most of my friends at other colleges, and had at max 10 minutes to walk to the next building when the weather gets below zero. The good and bad have been learning opportunities for me and it’s weird to imagine who I would’ve been without them.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish in the years after you graduate?

A: I have been thinking about opportunities for graduate school, both abroad and domestic. I’ve applied to a few programs directed at post-grad students, such as the Fulbright. I might also apply to some field schools for archaeology or try to work in a museum.  I might try for a few job opportunities related to my English major.

I think what I want most is to do something where I’m surrounded by people who are passionate about what I’m passionate about, which sounds really broad, but there are so many things I could do that I’m just not sure!