Brett Millier, Reginald L. Cook Professor of American Literature, became one of our newest members of the 25 year club last spring. In this post Brett answers our questions about her career, fond memories, one place on campus where you can always find “a bit of summer on a chilly spring day” and why she has always found Middlebury worth working hard for. If you have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Brett in person, read on and learn why you should.
What did you do prior to work at Middlebury College and where were you located?
When you get a Ph.D. in English you go where the job is, and though my degree is from Stanford University in California, Middlebury was my first job in academia. Before graduate school I worked for a while at Sports Illustrated magazine, and during graduate school, ran the scoreboard for the San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park.
What job titles have you held while working at Middlebury?
Assistant Professor (1986), Associate Professor (1992), Full Professor (1997), Reginald L. Cook Professor of American Literature (1997-present). Chair, Department of American Literature and Civilization 1992-2004; Chair, Department of English and American Literatures (2007-present)
Take us back to your first year as an employee at the College. What were the most significant things happening in your life outside of work then?
On my very first day in Middlebury (July 1986), I met my husband, Karl Lindholm, when I went to the Dean of Students office (then in Old Chapel) to volunteer to lead a freshman (as it was called then) Orientation reading discussion group. The rest, as they say, is history. It took us a little over four years actually to marry (October 18, 1990, at the chaplain’s house, at 4:15 on a Thursday afternoon!), but it all started on that day.
What are the most significant things happening in your life outside of work now (that you’d like to share)?
My children are happy teenagers at MUHS (Peter, 11thgrade, and Annie, 9th grade), and we are beginning to think about college for them. I greatly enjoy my church community at the Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society, and walk several miles most every day with my dogs. Karl is a happy retired guy, writing and driving teenagers around and having coffee with his friends.
Have your interests/hobbies/athletic endeavors changed over the past 25 years? Have any of these been influenced by your work at the College or due to your association with others who work here?
I learned to cross country ski at Rikert in my first J-term at the college, never having done any kind of skiing or skating or other winter sport. Despite the no-show snow this year, I still love skiing cross country above almost anything—I ski in places where the dogs can come, too! Living in Middlebury and Cornwall has also taught me how to live in a community (we moved around a lot when I was kid), and I am enjoying making long-term connections with people through work, through church, through volunteer work, and other community activities.
What is your fondest memory or experience that you’ve had while working at Middlebury?
I remember walking out of a meeting at 5:30 or so in the winter of, maybe 2001 or 2002, and into a stunning display of the aurora borealis—great flashes of red and white and green swirling in the sky and lasting for almost an hour.
Many people change jobs/careers multiple times in their working life. Something must have kept you here for 25 years. Is it anything that you can put into words?
The market for English professors is not an expanding one, for one thing. Tenure is another. But that said, I know that when I was hired at Middlebury in 1986, this was a very good job—and it is a great job now. I cannot imagine teaching better students, with a more supportive administration, in a more beautiful place, anywhere else. In addition, of course, Middlebury has been a wonderful place in which to raise children.
What are your plans for the next 25 years?
To finish my next book, to teach somewhere abroad in my next sabbatical, to work hard until I retire.
Do you have a favorite place on campus?
The courtyard behind Axinn gathers the sun and shields the wind—and is a little bit of summer on a chilly spring day.
Is there any person on campus (or retiree, former employer) that mentored you, or you feel helped you grow into your job, grow to enjoy your work and your time at the College?
I will always be grateful to former Presidents Olin Robison and John McCardell, for their visions for Middlebury’s future, and for including me in those visions.
If you could give one piece of advice to a new employee at Middlebury, what would it be?
Define your job broadly. We are surrounded by extraordinary people here, of all ages. Put yourself in contact with as many of them as you can.
Is there anything else that you would like to share about your time at Middlebury?
I have always found Middlebury worth working hard for. I feel blessed to be here. How could I not?