As the president of Black Student Alliance, a student assistant at Alderman Library and a member of the Honor Audit Commission, Student Council and the African American Alumni Engagement Advisory Committee, Bryanna Miller (Col ’18) doesn’t have a lot of spare time. But the Echols Scholar from Delaware—who was appointed the new Board of Visitors student member in March—found a few moments for Virginia Magazine.
Virginia Magazine: What are some of the more pressing questions and concerns that you expect students to have for the Board of Visitors?
Bryanna Miller: I think the general trend of increasing cost of higher education is something students are really concerned about. Secondly, I think, [is] the University’s response to national political events, but also state-level political events. We saw that last semester with the temporary travel ban and the University’s response. And finally, I think that students are very focused on the academic experience at the University. As we look at changes to the curriculum, as we look toward changes in enrollment size, as we think about generational turnover of faculty and the hiring of the new president—I think it’s on students’ minds.
VM: How can you make a difference on the Board if you don’t have a vote?
BM: It seems to me the nonvoting model works well because a student member is not responsible for pursuing his or her own agenda. The student member is responsible for presenting the spectrum of student opinion. I think, in that way, it allows the student member to be independent of political interest. I think not having a vote actually gives me more freedom to be kind of an arbiter of different opinions.
VM: What do you do for fun outside of all the things at UVA that you’re involved with—any hobbies?
BM: I spend 80 percent of my day thinking about UVA stuff, and I wouldn’t have it any other way [chuckles]. UVA is really my passion. It’s something I’ve come to love. I was really struggling with it my first year because of all the incidents that were happening [the murder of Hannah Graham (Col ’17) in 2014 and the arrest of Martese Johnson (Col ’16) in 2015], and I was seriously considering transferring. I think what kept me here was—I don’t know—there’s something special about UVA that I don’t think I would have anywhere else. I think at the root of it is this concept of student self-governance. The roundabout answer is to say no, I don’t have any hobbies, but I really love the things that I do.
VM: There are obviously so many issues on the minds of students. Do you have any idea how you’ll be able to parse them?
BM: My strategy is going to be trying to connect with as many communities as possible in a very intentional way. I’ve developed a map of the University that isn’t only about schools, but it also deals with student organizations, it deals with constituent groups. For me, it’s going to be about cultivating relationships with different individuals in each of those places across the University to make sure I can collect as much data as possible.