After a successful career as an academician in Texas, Michelle Miller began a second one by enrolling in law school in her mid-30s with the idea of becoming a civil rights litigator.
She quickly learned that “litigation was not my passion” and that her ambition to improve civil rights, equity and diversity could be applied in other legal venues. Even as a student at the University of Minnesota’s Law School, Miller promoted diversity, equity and inclusion, a trait she has carried on today as vice president at Medtronic Inc. and as a leader on several nonprofit boards.
A short list of organizations she has served as a leader includes the following: Twin Cities Diversity in Practice, Minnesota Association of Black Lawyers, Minnesota Women Lawyers, the UMN Law School’s Board of Advisors, Minnesota Continuing Legal Education, the Abbott Northwestern Hospital Foundation and many others. Miller led several DEI initiatives inside Medtronic, too. She has been named one of the Top 100 Most Influential Blacks in Corporate America three times.
For a DEI initiative to be successful, it must be “woven” into every aspect of a business, from hiring to retention and development, Miller said. “What we’re doing is creating a tapestry so at some point everyone becomes aligned with how we think about diversity,” she said.
After George Floyd’s murder, Miller wanted to promote law students wishing to pursue careers in social justice and civil rights. So she and Medtronic developed two endowed scholarships at the UMN’s Law School in honor of the pioneering Black judges, Pamela Alexander and Michael Davis. “The scholarships were established to support law students who have a commitment to social justice matters, civil rights or public interest,” she said.
Miller said although there is clear evidence of progress in the DEI space “we still have much to do.”
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