students in lounge
headshot of Chenelle with overlay text reading "alumni spotlight"

This week we are catching up with class of 2022 College of Arts & Sciences alum Chenelle Miller. During her time at UVA, Chenelle made a significant impact on all the activities she was involved with across grounds. She majored in psychology and minored in African American studies. At the Women's Center, Chenelle worked with YWLP as a big sister mentoring children in the Charlottesville community. Now, Chenelle works as a Clinical Research Coordinator at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. We know that whatever path she chooses to follow next, she’ll make a big impact.

Tell us about the path you’ve taken to where you are now in your career. Has it been planned? Organic? Some of both? 

My path was somewhat planned; I would graduate undergrad and then go into a Ph.D. program. However, my plans have since changed. Currently, I am a Clinical Research Coordinator at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and my day-to-day consists of screening, recruiting, and enrolling participants in several studies. I find joy in each aspect of my job; however, I would like to be in the clinical instead of the research side of health care. Until recently, I still considered applying to Ph.D. programs; however, there is a different kind of satisfaction about documenting statistical improvement versus seeing a smile on a patient's face or taking away a parent's worry for their child.

What mistakes or failures have helped you get to where you are now?

Several Clinical Psychology Ph.D. programs rejected my application. As I read that sentence aloud, the word "rejected" sounded louder than any other word. Nonetheless, not getting into a Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program gave me more time to explore my career options. In doing so, I have learned that I do not want to do research for the rest of my life. I did not truly understand research until I embedded myself into a research-oriented job. As I continue to check-in with myself, I realize that I should have explored more career options in undergrad and really taken the time to find a career that does not feel like a task but a passion.

How do you practice work/life fit? 

I currently go to bed at 9:00PM, and I am thinking about changing that to 8:30PM. Sleep gives my body and mind the time to recoup and be prepared for the next stressful day. Work/life balance is about taking care of myself such that I can be a successful professional. This also means that I strictly work 8 hours Monday – Friday. I will give my boss 110% for 40 hours out of the week; however, beyond that, I am taking away from my time to recoup and, in turn, my ability to be a successful professional. Take care of yourself, and you will have more energy to dedicate to all other aspects of your life.

What lessons or skills from your work with YWLP and the Women’s Center play a role in your career or life today? 

Going into YWLP, your mentee may think they don’t need another adult in their life telling them what to do. However, YWLP aims to support youths voice, creativity, and goals. It is not about pesky adults telling youth what to do. I always wanted to be a mentor, to provide similar support I received from my mentors; however, I did not know where to start. I knew that being a mentor meant providing guidance; however, I did not have the tools necessary to provide such guidance. YWLP offers you the tools to be successful in a volunteering opportunity that you will thoroughly enjoy. Through the Big and Facilitator class I learned how to support others, how to mindfully listen, and how to be a better friend. Currently, I am a mentor in an Ohio based mentoring program, and I engage with students using techniques YWLP has afforded me.

Looking back, what advice would you give your former, student-self? 

It is comforting when you think you know what career you want for the rest of your life. Throughout college, I had a roadmap from point A to C. First, work towards the MA 4+1 program, graduate undergrad, completed the MA program, then enroll in a Clinical Psychology Ph.D. program. I had gotten so comfortable with this roadmap, and I did not stop to think if getting my Ph.D. in Psychology was the right fit. I was never research-oriented and am realizing more every day that I would rather interact with others and do clinical work. All this to say that, when you are thinking about your career, also think about what you see yourself wearing every day, how often you wish to interact with others, what you want your sleep schedule to look like, etc. Ask yourself, will I be in charge of my career, or will my career take charge of me?