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2020-2021 Eberly Scholars: Jaxon Miller

In association with the ongoing generosity of the Eberly family, the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences Advisory Board established the Eberly Scholars program in 1988. Each year, up to 25 students majoring in the arts and sciences are designated as Eberly Scholars. They are provided with scholarship support in recognition of their outstanding academic achievement. This award is the Eberly College’s most prestigious scholarship honor for undergraduate students.  Meet all of this year's Eberly Scholars.

Jaxon Miller
Hometown: Hurricane, West Virginia
Majors: History and Russian Studies
Minors: Foreign Literature in Translation and Slavic and East European Studies 

How did you choose your major?

My journey to finding the perfect major was not unlike most incoming students, except for the fact that I went through 17 different subjects before I found my match! I initially came to WVU set on attending law school and chose political science as my major. While taking an advanced history course (a subject that I thoroughly enjoyed in high school), I realized that I loved the field and added history as my second major. As the year went on, I found that political science was not my true calling and decided to experiment with different subjects that I could pair with my history major. I ended up talking with faculty in every area, from economics to geology, and yet still struggled to find something that I was truly interested in.

It was during a trip to Washington, DC, when I happened to be sitting next to the coordinator of the Russian Studies program where that all changed. After conversing for several hours, I began to realize a common theme existed behind each of my areas of interest: Russia and Eastern Europe. I would follow this initial interest throughout the summer until it brought me to declaring a major in Russian Studies at the beginning of my sophomore year. Since that point, I have fully immersed myself in Russian history, culture and language, having finally found my place at WVU after exploring so many other majors.

How would you explain your major to an incoming student? What advice would you give them?

Working with two different departments (History and World Languages, Literatures and Linguistics) has provided me with various opportunities for growth and development. I feel as though each serves as a part of my WVU family and gives helpful advice as to how I should proceed in my degree and career. History is really the study of people and their interactions with each other. Certain patterns repeat in the course of your studies, and these can be used to predict what a power or nation may do in the present or future. Russian Studies focuses on the literature, culture and history of Russia and its surrounding areas. One really feels connected to students from this discipline as most of those entering the major have little to no prior experience with the Russian language, making the process a shared challenge as we all attempt to learn how to say even the simplest phrases. If I were to give advice to an incoming history or world languages, literatures and linguistics student, I would tell them to not be afraid to speak up in class and get to know the instructors. Class becomes a much better experience once a student knows the professor and material, allowing them to explore beyond the assignments.  

Also, take classes outside of your major; they can be fun and lead to exciting experiences. One class that I really enjoyed that had little to do with my major was Leadership Studies 393B: Challenges for Higher Education. The course focused on a subject I had yet to encounter in my studies: leadership. I learned about what it takes to keep a university running, including its mission to serve the community and the support that such an initiative requires. By exploring subjects that are different from my own interests, I develop a finer appreciation for my own field and gain new insights into how others view the world around them.   

How has your major prepared you for your future career?

Since attending WVU, I have broadened my horizons and found more confidence in my abilities, considering fields that I may have otherwise dismissed as too difficult. Through my studies of Russian language and literature, I have found a deep love for Eastern European film and culture. This has inspired me to explore a career in academia. I plan to attend graduate school in Russian culture and film with the hopes of teaching literature or cultural studies as a professor. I never would have imagined that I would be capable of such a career, let alone speaking a word of proper Russian. Through working with amazing faculty and a supportive network of individuals, I have gone beyond my wildest dreams and hope to inspire that same level of confidence in future generations. I hope to work with WVU’s Honors College to plan my EXCEL Program research and (pending the progression of the COVID-19 pandemic) travel to Russia next summer to study culture and language.  

Jaxon Miller

How have you changed since your first year at WVU?

Coming into WVU as a freshman, I was young and ambitious, taking interest in everything that I saw. In many ways, I am still that young man who is interested in all the world has to offer. Since that time, however, I have learned how to narrow my interests and apply my knowledge to various scenarios. I find that I am always learning something new and enjoy playing the part of the student. Even when serving in leadership roles within the University, I always find that there is something to learn from those around you. Truly, the best thing that WVU taught me was perspective. I have taken the "One WVU" motto to heart as I continue to meet new people and hear their stories. From the Lake District of England to the island of Crete, one can always find a Mountaineer nearby to answer the call of "Let's go."

What was your most memorable moment at WVU?

My most memorable moment while attending WVU was my time in Quebec on an education abroad trip with students from all three WVU campuses. This was my second time abroad with the University but it was my first time in an area where English was not the primary language. After our first day of lecture, we had the evening to ourselves to explore Quebec City. Through a miscommunication with a bus driver, our small band of 10 students had accidentally boarded a bus that was leaving the city. As it was our first night, we were not alarmed as we unknowingly left the city's limits. It was after an hour of driving that we noticed we no longer in the city and that the bus now only contained us and the driver. It was at this point that the driver pulled over and called out "last stop of the night" in both French and English. Needless to say, we were all panicked as it had become quite dark, and we were miles from the city. Thankfully, the driver understood our mishap and agreed to drop us off in the correct place as she had to return the bus anyway. On our way back to Quebec City, we all began singing "Country Roads" when we were back in city limits. The driver even joined in, and we continued to sing until we reached our dorms. In that moment, I felt like a true Mountaineer as we sang with the driver on the way "home."

What was the hardest (Eberly College) class that you loved? Why?

One of the more difficult classes that I took that I thoroughly enjoyed was History 205D: Short History About Money. It was an Honors College course taught my sophomore year by Dr. Matthew Titolo. We focused on money's role in society from ancient civilizations to modern day. This course was difficult in that it exposed me to economics, a field that I was not well-versed in. I enjoyed the course because it was discussion-based and delved into interesting readings. I had the chance to explore topics that I had never considered and work with students from unfamiliar backgrounds. I was thrilled to have taken this class and hope to use the lessons that I learned in future research.

Jaxon Miller playing quidditch

What do you want others to know that is not on your resume?

I love meeting new people and trying different experiences. I will forever be thankful for the opportunities that WVU has provided me and look forward to giving back to the community as I develop my Honors EXCEL research. WVU has allowed me to go beyond the classroom to learn more than I could have ever imagined about the world. My journey with WVU is far from over, and I will continue to work hard and strive to learn something new every day, even in the face of the pandemic. If I have learned one thing, it is that Mountaineers are resilient and rise up in the face of a challenge. We will get through this, one day at a time.

What makes you feel connected to WVU? What have been your keys to success?

My connection to WVU is shaped by the people that I meet. I have been so fortunate to meet many amazing people whom I hope to keep as lifelong friends. Becoming inspired by the acts of those around me has become my main motivation in achieving what I never imagined was possible. My key to success is rooted in learning to appreciate others and their way of understanding the world. By understanding the perspectives of others, I can begin to form my own opinions and thoughts about how to solve problems that the world throws at us.

One such lesson that has proved to be invaluable has been learning the mission of land-grant universities, like WVU. I resonate with the idea of giving back to my community and providing an excellent education to all those who desire to learn more about the world around them. At WVU, we are more than just individuals; we are global Mountaineers who seek to go first into the world and solve problems that others may not  see. We trust not only in our abilities but the abilities of those around us.

Why would you recommend WVU to a sibling or friend?

WVU provides you with good memories, a solid education and lifelong friends. I have met so many amazing people (both students and faculty) during my time at WVU and am constantly inspired by others' actions. The Mountaineer journey takes one from the highest mountains to the lowest valleys, figuratively and literally. I could not have asked for a better undergraduate education and am grateful to have been challenged and encouraged by my peers and instructors. I look forward to my remaining time at WVU and am thankful to have had so many amazing experiences in only my first two years of education. If you are looking for a quality education with a supportive network of staff behind you, look no further than WVU.  

Do you have a favorite professor or instructor here? What makes them special?

My favorite professor at WVU is Dr. Lisa Di Bartolomeo. I have had Dr. Di for four courses so far (Russian Fairy Tales, Contemporary Polish Cinema, Science Fiction of the East and West and Kieslowski's Polish Cinema) and plan to take two more classes with her in fall 2020 (Vampires and Revolution and 19th Century Russian Literature). Dr. Di is helped me to realize my potential as I declared my major. Not only does she teach interesting subjects that extend beyond the classroom, but she connects to each individual student and ensures that they understand the material. I had planned to go to Prague on a study abroad trip led by Dr. Di over spring break before the pandemic began and still have hope that a similar trip can be planned for the future. It is because of great faculty here at WVU, like  D r. Di, that students recognize their potential and begin to explore areas that previously eluded them.  

Describe the best thing thatʼs happened to you at WVU.

Becoming a resident assistant has been the best experience for me since coming to WVU. I was inspired by my RA freshman year to apply for the position as he truly helped me to find my place at the University and made my transition from high school to college smooth. Being placed in the Dadisman Hall/Stalnaker Hall community was a blessing as it forced me out of my comfort zone as I worked with students with backgrounds and priorities that were different from my own. I have grown close to my amazing staff of coworkers and have had the opportunity to meet extraordinary students both from my own building and from the international students in Stalnaker Hall. It has given me the opportunity to work closer with various organizations on campus and provided more insight into the students who make up WVU than one could ask for. I have enjoyed helping those around me and look forward to continuing making new memories as I work in the position next year.

What was your reaction when you heard you were selected as an Eberly Scholar? How has this opportunity made a difference in your life?

I was initially shocked and could not believe that I had been awarded such an honor. I was aware that this award was one of the highest honors in the Eberly College and did not expect to be selected when I initially applied. This scholarship will allow me to continue my education at WVU without concern about how I will pay for my education and take out fewer loans as I begin my junior year. To have been selected from such a great group of individuals is an honor, one I am truly grateful to receive. I can only hope to pay it forward as I continue with my research that will hopefully benefit the University and state of West Virginia.