"What are you going to do when you graduate?"

It’s a question all college students have to answer sooner or later. As a freshman, Emily Miller, ’10, never imaged that the answer would be go to Harvard Divinity School on a partial scholarship.

In hindsight, Miller, a triple major in leadership studies, English, and women, gender, and sexuality studies who was raised Catholic and identifies as a third-wave feminist, can’t imagine a better fit. And she says the University of Richmond has prepared her well.  

“I’m really interested in the intersection of those two identities — my feminist identity and my Catholic identity,” says Miller. “Some of the leading Catholic feminist theologians are at Harvard, and I’m very interested in working with them. I read several of them for my thesis, which was an analysis of the ways that feminists have impacted, and continue to impact, the Catholic Church.”

She was also accepted to Yale Divinity School, the Divinity School at the University of Chicago, and Candler School of Theology at Emory University.

She picked Harvard for its emphasis on women’s studies. “Harvard is simply where you want to be as a feminist theologian,” says Miller, who is the fourth of five children.

The Indiana, Pennsylvania native has spent much of her undergraduate career “developing her feminist identity.” She served as the president of WILL, a nationally recognized program for women interested in exploring gender and diversity issues inside and outside the classroom, and has taken a number of courses cross-listed in leadership studies and women, gender, and sexuality studies that focus on women’s issues, such as Sex, Power, and Politics and The Women’s Movement.

“Emily has the dubious honor of being the student who has taken the most classes with me at UR,” says leadership studies professor Ana Mitric. “So we have talked a lot over the years about the intersections of diverse issues: class, gender, sexuality, power, politics, history, ethics, imagination.”

But it wasn’t until her internship with the Feminist Majority Foundation last summer that she realized she was interested in pursuing religion.

“All of my coursework came to life. I came out of my internship much more passionate and enthusiastic about my role in the future of feminism and women’s rights and finding a way to relate that to my Catholic background,” she says. “Leadership studies is about effecting change, and you have to be involved if you want to make change happen.”

She credits leadership studies professor Dr. Peter Kaufman and associate university chaplain Kate O’Dwyer Randall with pointing her in the direction of divinity school and encouraging her to apply to schools such as Harvard.

For Miller, divinity school is the perfect tie-in for her multidisciplinary work at Richmond.

“My leadership studies courses pushed me to look at my passion for women’s studies and at my faith and the Catholic Church and see what was possible. I think all of these disciplines are about people and their experiences — that’s what ties it all together.”

Eventually she wants to go into academia, although she’s not sure yet what she would teach with her “assortment of backgrounds.” And that’s just the way she wants it.

“I’m not willing to shut any doors just yet. I think it’s always better not to — at least that’s what I’m banking on.”