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Elizabeth Miller

Elizabeth MillerA nontraditional student is on track to graduate with the first cohort of Integrated Business and Engineering (IBE) students at Purdue University, balancing family and education.

Elizabeth Miller, a single mother to a 2-year-old son, is a nontraditional student in the IBE undergraduate program, a partnership between the School of Business and the College of Engineering. She graduated with an associate degree in business administration and management from Ivy Tech in 2019 and most recently worked as an executive administrative assistant at the Bob Rohrman Auto Group.

Miller initially planned to return to Purdue University for a degree in mechanical engineering, but she heard about the IBE program and decided to apply. “That seemed perfect for me because I wanted to do something engineering-related, but I also wanted to use my experience and natural knack for business,” Miller says. “IBE seemed like a great combination.”

Transferring in as a sophomore, Miller will likely be the first to graduate from the IBE program, which launched in fall 2021. She’s also among the first group of women in the program to receive the Julie Wainwright Scholarship for Women Who Make a Difference.   

The scholarship provides full tuition, fees, and room and board for two in-state students and two out-of-state students. All females accepted into the IBE program are automatically considered for the scholarship, which is renewable provided the recipient remains enrolled in the program.

“I’ve had to go a bit slower than most traditional students because I don’t want to end up in debt, so getting a scholarship really means a lot to me,” Miller says. “That's a big reason why I'm able to stay at Purdue.”

Miller has also drawn on resources through Purdue’s Span Plan, which is dedicated to empowering nontraditional undergraduate students by providing them access to financial and academic resources, specialized guidance, and engagement opportunities that develop confidence beyond the classroom.I've been very fortunate,” she says.

During her time in the IBE program, Miller has found numerous sources of career support, including the career services center. She especially appreciates the tools that it offers after her real-world experience. “After you graduate, it's a lot harder to find somebody to help you with your resume or to practice an elevator pitch,” she says. “There are so many great connections at Purdue that you should take advantage of while you can.”

In addition to her coursework, Miller has learned a lot from her experiences as a nontraditional student. As a single mother, she has found that being a parent helps her academically.

“It teaches you to be more structured,” she says. “You just have to learn how to make the most of your time.” Switching between home and school forced her to stick to a schedule and tackle her responsibilities.

Miller has also overcome some of the other hurdles that accompany being a nontraditional student. “I'm older than a lot of my classmates, so that can have some logistical issues,” she says. “My schedule looks very different because of parenting. Working on group projects can be very challenging because my schedule is very different from that of a traditional student. But I always think it's a good opportunity to find ways to work together and make things happen.”

Looking forward, Miller hopes IBE will help her jumpstart a career as a product manager in the tech industry. Her long-term plan is to move into consulting, where she will use her education to continue pursuing excellence. “I might also return to graduate school in a few years, but I want to gain some workforce experience first,” she says.