Working at a magnet high school in Hartford that came out of the Sheff v. O’Neill school desegregation lawsuit, Joe Miller ’23 has been acutely aware of how the law can shape students’ lives.
He has worked in the Hartford School District for 11 years and is now chair of the social studies department at University High School. His experiences as a teacher influenced his decision to enroll in UConn School of Law’s Evening Division.
“As a teacher, it became clear that many of the issues I saw plaguing our education system—inequitable funding mechanisms, a sluggish bureaucracy, curricula that teach the wrong things in the wrong ways—were the product of a series of dysfunctional, interlocking systems,” Miller said. “I felt that law school offered a way to address these systemic challenges beyond what I could do in the classroom, whether that was through policymaking or litigation.”
Miller will graduate with a JD on May 14. He plans to serve as a judicial clerk at the Connecticut Supreme Court. In his four years at UConn Law, Miller has been involved with the Connecticut Law Review; Moot Court Board; Non-Traditional, Evening and Working Students Association; and the Softball Club.
Some of his best memories are with the Softball Club, playing pickup games at Elizabeth Park and tournaments in places like Massachusetts and Virginia. But Miller will always remember sitting with other students after Professor Emerita Jennifer Mailly’s Civil Procedure class the night before campus shut down in March 2020. They chatted and wondered if their “1L year was about to go completely off the rails.”
His biggest takeaway from his legal education was learning to be successful without sacrificing either his competitive spirit or his empathy.
“You can be a fierce advocate while still learning from the people around you,” Miller said. “Some of the best advice I’ve heard is to find the smartest person you know who disagrees with you and then listen to them. Over the past four years I’ve gotten to have so many of those conversations, and I am a better person and will be a better attorney for it.”
Miller enjoyed meeting students in the Day and Evening divisions with a variety of backgrounds. His classmates had multiple careers, served in the military, spent time abroad and came back to school later in life, bringing those experiences with them.
“I could not be more grateful to the people who supported and inspired me over the past four years,” Miller said. “It might be my name on the diploma, but in my heart my wife, my parents, and a few hundred kids from Hartford will be up there with me on Commencement Day.”