Sarah Miller ’19 Puts Her Deaf Studies BA to Use at Motion Light Lab

Miller graduated in May 2019 and was selected the commencement speaker for her graduation ceremony. She was the first Deaf commencement speaker in the history of Columbia.

Sarah Miller ’19, found herself in many dead-end jobs throughout her career. Miller reached a point in her life where she wanted a fulfilling position immersed in her culture and native language (American Sign Language). She wanted a versatile degree that could work for her in a variety of ways. Knowing she wanted to stay in Chicago, Miller researched and found Columbia College Chicago’s Deaf Studies program and joined the program when she was 27. 

“I treasured being able to learn in a conductive environment and the fact I was finally working towards my degree after more than 10 years of detours. I made sure to get the most of my experience, which included going to extracurricular events (ASL Slam, ASL club events, and hanging out in the ASL center) and working as an ASL tutor,” said Miller. Miller was also involved with the ASL Club for two years, first as a secretary and then as the President. It gave her invaluable hands-on experience that has helped Miller land jobs after graduating. 

While at Columbia, Miller had a few professors who went the extra mile to help her succeed. Crom Saunders was Miller’s advisor and gave her opportunities as a Deaf creative. It was in his class that Miller found her Deaf identity and felt like she truly belonged. Peter Cook's ASL Creativity class taught Miller to play with language and become comfortable pushing the boundaries creatively. Matt Anderson gave Miller direction with his Deaf Studies Capstone Class. Miller realized she wanted to do a real-life implementation of her project, a Deaf mentorship system, and supported her throughout grad school; Miller did both her practicum and internship with Anderson.

Miller graduated in May 2019 and was selected the commencement speaker for her graduation ceremony. She was the first Deaf commencement speaker in the history of Columbia. A video of her speech can be found here:

Deaf awareness and education are important to Miller, and she tries to spread knowledge about her culture in a thoughtful and positive manner. “Being Deaf is who I am, and I'm so very proud of my identity and culture. I strive to be the best advocate I can, and that manifests in many different ways -- right now I am curating an ASL themed little free library that is in front of my parents' house. I have filled it with books pertaining to the Deaf experience, used Deaf businesses' products to adorn it, and post an interesting placard about the Deaf world on it every week,” said Miller. 

Miller’s Deaf Studies BA degree helped her land her current job, as well as graduate school at Gallaudet University. Miller received a Master's in Sign Language Education, which helped her to land her current job with Motion Light Lab and CREST Network. 

Today, Miller works at Motion Light Lab, an award-winning creative research and development lab housed at Gallaudet University. It’s one of the four hubs of the National Science Foundation/Gallaudet University Science of Learning Center on Visual Language and Visual Learning. Miller is the community and social strategist, where she focuses on communicating the projects, programs, products, tools, and resources offered by Motion Light Lab and Action Brain Lab. This position takes great responsibility in social media strategies, branding, marketing, and communication strategies. Miller helped to coordinate CREST Network's six-week digital festival (CREST Fest 2021) which ran from June 14th to July 23rd. She handled logistics pertaining to scheduling speakers, interpreters, webinars, and social media promotions. 

On advice for current students, Miller says life is hard. Sometimes things don't go the way you expect them to, which is why it's so important to communicate and be flexible. If you're struggling, Miller recommends telling your teachers so alternative solutions can be figured out. She wants students to make the most of the little things, for when you look back you realize they were a central part of the student experience -- savor it! Miller recommends students step out of their typical circle and explore different events and groups. “Columbia boasts such an amazing and diverse student body, take advantage of that and broaden your horizons by hanging out with people who are different from you. Be open minded, respectful, and kind – and you will go far,” Miller adds.