Brenau University has established the Miller Institute for Global Education to guide its internationalization plans that aim to increase students’ global awareness, an initiative key to the university’s mission and its strategic plan.
The institute is funded by an estate gift from Board Secretary Pete Miller, who has been a Brenau trustee since 1998, and his wife, Cathy.
“As we move into the future, Brenau University will continue to meet the changing needs of our community and the world,” Brenau President Anne Skleder said. “Thanks to the generosity of Pete and Cathy Miller, one of the key ways that we will accomplish this strategic goal is through the Miller Institute for Global Education. I’m excited about the possibilities the institute will provide to send Brenau students around the globe and for the university to bring the world to the Gainesville and Hall County area.”
The creation of the institute builds upon the Miller family’s support of international studies at Brenau that established the Pete and Cathy Miller Family Endowment in 2006 to bring international students to Brenau and allow for international experiences from Brenau. Those areas of focus will be expanded upon by the new institute, which will be overseen by Rosi Ponce, executive director of international strategy and partnerships at Brenau.
Jim Eck, provost and vice president of academic affairs at Brenau, said the institute will support faculty in meeting the university’s long-term academic goals.
“The institute also perfectly aligns with the university’s quality enhancement plan to develop internationally, culturally competent students, which will be a focus for the next five years,” Eck said. “The institute will support the important work of the faculty to ensure that students achieve career readiness competencies, including collaboration, teamwork, and communication, that are among the essential outcomes of the plan.”
The new institute will support Brenau students’ pursuit of highly competitive international opportunities such as the Boren Awards, Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarships, and the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. It also will expand opportunities for study abroad programs and international partnerships.
Since 2006, more than 400 students, faculty, and staff have benefited from funding connected to the Miller endowment, including more than 250 American students who have undertaken international experiences in Mexico, Great Britain, France, Italy, and China.
Ponce joined Brenau in 2020 and knows first-hand how transformative global education and experiences can be personally and professionally. She spent most of her adulthood living in countries around the world.
“I have seen the tremendous impact of global travel and immersion on the students during my 10 years of facilitating international initiatives across American institutions of higher education,” Ponce said. “Through the institute, we will be able to provide even more assistance to help Brenau students from across disciplines find the same opportunities to broaden themselves, cultivate mutual understanding with peoples from around the globe and develop skills that will position them to enter the global stage.”
The institute’s goals are to facilitate global education opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students and develop programs that meet the interests and needs of the university’s diverse student population, Ponce said.
Miller, who served as chair of Brenau’s Board of Trustees for many years, retired in 2010 as regional president of Regions Financial Corp. He began working with Willis Investment Counsel in Gainesville soon after retirement. He holds a degree in finance from Georgia State University and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Brenau University.