As a military spouse of 16 years, Bana Miller ’04 knows a thing or two about moving due to assignments. She recently made her fifth move in seven years—this time to Seattle, where her husband, Lt. Col. Matt Miller, is now stationed. She’s not worried though. She’s found the military community to be welcoming in each new city, offering a sense of comradery.
“I love that every time we move I find my people and I’m pushed outside of my comfort zone,” Miller says. “We got to travel all over Europe, then we met the most incredible humans and built a really amazing community. I count myself very lucky to be a military family member, even with all the challenges it brings.”
Chief among those challenges, Miller says, is military spouse unemployment and underemployment. “It’s incredibly challenging for military spouses to thrive and flourish in their careers,” explains Miller, who majored in public relations at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and marketing at the Martin J. Whitman School of Management. “I credit my education at Syracuse University for giving me a really solid foundation and putting me in the best position possible for thriving in my career when I did become a military spouse.”
Although she did not ultimately enroll in the program, Miller considered joining Onward to Opportunity, a career skills program offered by the University's Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) that provides civilian career training, professional certifications and employment services support to transitioning service members, members of the Reserves or National Guard, veterans and military spouses. This is one of the many services Syracuse University offers to veterans and their families.
I credit my education at Syracuse University for giving me a really solid foundation and putting me in the best position possible for thriving in my career when I did become a military spouse.—Bana Miller ’04
Now, as a successful marketing and communications professional, she feels fortunate that she can work remotely, which allows her to move and raise her family while advancing in her chosen field. She is also honored to have been selected for the prestigious Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program, an initiative offered through the George W. Bush Institute that serves military-connected individuals who are motivated to broaden their skillset, knowledge, network and influence across the country.
Gaining Practical Knowledge
Miller is the chief marketing officer for Team Red, White and Blue (Team RWB), a nonprofit that enriches the lives of veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activity. She leads the organization’s national branding, marketing communications and cause marketing efforts, drawing on skills she gained at Syracuse. “I was so well-prepared for not even just my first job out of college, but my first several jobs out of college.”
As a student, Miller interned with Mower, an agency in Syracuse; QVC in West Chester, Pennsylvania; and Villanova University. The Philadelphia-area native says all these public relations internships gave her experience that helps her to this day. She also served as president of the Syracuse University chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America and as vice president of her sorority. She credits her encouraging professors and these opportunities with building her confidence in her leadership skills.
Team RWB’s mission is something Miller believes in deeply, especially because of its focus on the health and wellness of veterans. “I love looking at the effects and the correlation between physical health and mental health and being able to serve the whole veteran and not looking at veterans and military family members as broken or damaged, but as really vital parts of the community. I appreciate getting to serve the military veteran community in my own way.”
’Cuse Conversation with Bana Miller ’04
Bana Miller’s career focuses on advocating for our nation’s veterans and their families. And with good reason, as Miller’s husband is a veteran of the U.S. Army. This summer, Miller was accepted into the 2021 Class of the George W. Bush Institute’s Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program, one of a select group of executives from across different industries who are committed to serving the military-connected community.
She also appreciates that she’s been able to balance work with packing for another move and parenting her four children, ages 9, 7, 5 and 6 months—especially since her husband is currently working in Asia.
Miller acknowledges she has found a career arrangement that eludes many other military spouses. “I know there are so many great organizations that work on providing solutions, including the Institute for Veterans and Military Families and the Office for Veteran and Military Affairs,” she says. “But there are systemic challenges that are going to take a long time to overcome.” IVMF focuses its efforts on advancing the lives of the nation’s military veterans and their families by offering programs in career, vocational and entrepreneurship education and training. In the ten years of IVMF’s existence at Syracuse University, more than 150,000 transitioning service members, veterans and military family members have been served by its programs.
A Humbling Honor
Miller is grateful to have been accepted to the Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program after a rigorous application process. Throughout the five-month program, she and her cohort are meeting with distinguished leaders in the military community to develop and build upon leadership skills and create connections. They also work together on leadership projects and skills to apply to their workplaces.
That’s what I learned at Syracuse: don’t say no to opportunities or meeting new people, because you never know when you’re going to learn something or meet somebody that will change your life.—Bana Miller ’04
The program has been both a challenge and an inspiration for Miller, who says she is eager to apply what she’s been learning to her work at Team RWB.
“I’m very excited by this opportunity. Though it’s a busy time with the move and the kids, I couldn’t pass it up,” Miller says. “That’s what I learned at Syracuse: don’t say no to opportunities or meeting new people, because you never know when you’re going to learn something or meet somebody that will change your life.”