Grace Miller, '21

April 6, 2021
Asking big questions and seeking solutions drive Richmond Scholar's academic and career choices

Ask big questions. Then dig deep to find answers. This is exactly what excites and motivates Grace Miller, ’21. So she is thrilled to be joining the Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm Avascent as an analyst after graduation. She completed her Jepson School of Leadership Studies internship virtually this past summer at the consultancy that serves clients in government-driven industries.

“Avascent tackles big-picture problems and solutions in the United States and abroad,” she said. “Working as an analyst will combine all my interests into one job.”

Miller has been exploring those interests through her complementary majors in leadership studies and political science and a range of curricular and co-curricular experiences at the University of Richmond. A fascination with servant leadership (a leadership philosophy in which the goal of the leader is to serve) initially drew her to the Jepson School, she said.

“At Jepson, I’ve learned how to think about issues,” said the senior from Naples, Fla. “My leadership professors ask provocative questions that often cause me to question my assumptions. My political science classes, by contrast, provide concrete solutions.”

After her sophomore year, she explored leadership and law in an international context through Jepson at Cambridge, a summer program at Cambridge University offered by the Jepson School in collaboration with the University of Richmond School of Law.

“I loved my comparative law class where we looked at the development of law in the U.S. versus the U.K.,” said Miller, a dual citizen of the United States and the United Kingdom. “The class forced me to ask questions about American politics and policy. For example, the United Kingdom does not have a constitution. I did not comprehend what that meant in terms of democratic governance before taking this class.”

Eager to further her understanding of global perspectives on leadership and politics, she studied abroad in Rome during the fall semester of her junior year. She explored Benito Mussolini’s leadership in a class on terrorism and totalitarianism. An internship with a Rome-based international nonprofit introduced her to efforts in the fight to abolish the death penalty globally.

This year, the Richmond Scholar became a member of the inaugural class of Gary L. McDowell Institute student fellows. Housed within the Jepson School, the McDowell Institute is dedicated to free inquiry, thoughtful deliberation, and rigorous discussion across a wide range of political perspectives. Currently, student fellows are discussing how the degradation of American institutions has contributed to polarization.

“We come from a variety of majors but share a common interest in engaging in big conversations about what is going on in America,” Miller said. “When do you decide to rebuild or abandon American institutions? We push each other on our beliefs. Many of our discussions have applications to our campus as well.”

As her senior year at Richmond winds down, she enthusiastically anticipates her next opportunity to ask big questions and seek answers—this time post-graduation as an analyst with Avascent. She will work on consulting projects related to the defense industry, health care, and mergers and acquisitions, she said.

“About every six weeks I will work on a new project in a new area. I am most interested in the big questions posed by government-bid projects. I’ll have the chance to research these questions and try to figure out solutions.”