Faculty Spotlight: Aimee Miller

Communication professor Aimee Miller has been turning heads throughout campus this year as people learn about the places she has lived, her theories on fandoms and her new role as the speech and debate advisor.

Living outside the US

Many people can only imagine living outside the US, but Miller made the dream a reality. Miller lived in Nagoya, Japan for two and a half years. She also lived in Wellington, New Zealand for a summer internship.

Miller loved to travel whenever she could and enjoyed living in both countries, as it opened her eyes and increased her cultural sensitivity.

Miller brought many things back from these countries that weren’t specifically tourist souvenirs.

“I’m not much of a collector,” Miller said. “I tended to buy items that I could use. For example, I’ve got a teapot that I treasure from Japan. A student bought it for me as a gift. I’ve got kitchenware, like forks from Hong Kong and mugs from Korea. My purse broke and I bought a beautiful hand-made bag from Vietnam. My apartment is filled with a hodge-podge of items from other countries, stuff that I needed that made sense for me to buy.”

Miller was able to pick up some hobbies while being outside of the US, which helped her while she was away from family and friends.

“I did pick up the hobby of writing letters and postcards,” Miller said. “It was a lot of fun for me to walk around the markets and find art, postcards, stationary, the kind of local stuff that I could write a little update message on and send to friends or family. I liked personalizing it and picking out something that I thought that person would like. It kept me grounded and connected to my friends back home.”

Aimee Miller (left) coaches students on Ferris’ competitive speech and debate team. Photo provided by: Aimee Miller

Psychology junior Tyler VanEss is a part of the speech and debate team. They’ve noticed Miller’s appreciation for different cultures.

“[Miller] always seems really curious and eager to learn about any new culture she come across,” VanEss said. “She is absolutely respectful and careful to not accidentally say or do something that would be upsetting to whichever culture she is interacting with.”


A fan writer is a person who writes fictional stories within the universe of their favorite shows, movies or books. The term is used to distinguish writers of fanfiction from writers of original fiction. Miller enjoys writing fanfiction because she can truly analyze a specific text.

“Fan studies is an interdisciplinary field that focuses on fan behaviors, fan cultures, fan activities and fans in general,” Miller said. “It’s a fascinating and dynamic area of study that encompasses a diverse array of interests.”

Miller became involved with fanfiction at age ten. Her love for it blossomed as she grew older.

“I’ve produced nearly a million words of fan-fiction for various fandoms,” Miller said. “When I was in college, I was chatting with one of my mentors about potential topics for a large thesis-type project that I needed to complete for the honors program… She encouraged me to capitalize upon my specialized knowledge in this area. The project was only supposed to be thirty pages, but I had so much fun with researching and writing it that I ended up writing sixty pages — eighty if you count the references. I have other research interests, [such as] intercultural communication, interpersonal communication [and] argumentation and forensics, but I always seem to come back to fan studies.”

Miller is grateful for the mentor that gave her the support she needed.

“She seemed genuinely interested in my thoughts,” Miller said. “I thought fan-fiction was a nerdy practice with some stigma behind it, but she validated my ideas and pushed me to move forward.”

Miller received an award from the Central States Communication Association for her research on identity exploration within online fandoms in 2021. Miller has gone to conferences all over the US to talk about fanfiction. Her most famous appearance is when she returned to her alma mater Monmouth University to speak on fanfiction and censorship in 2021.

Speech and debate

Miller has taken the speech and debate circuit by storm as a competitor and a coach. Miller got into speech and debate when she was in high school to help overcome her fear of public speaking.

“The first year was a real struggle,” Miller said. “I dropped my papers, lost my place, could never make the time and felt sick whenever I had to give a speech. But I kept at it. Eventually, something clicked, and I began to thrive at tournaments. By the end of high school, not only was I confidently [speaking publicly], but I was actively falling in love with the activity. I kept the momentum going and joined the speech and debate team in college.”

Miller found great success at Monmouth during her competition years, doing impressively well in impromptu and persuasive speaking. Once Miller was done competing, she decided to continue her love for speech and debate from a different approach.

“I love the activity,” Miller said. “Speech and debate is inherently rooted in advocacy, and it helps students to find their unique voices. There’s something awing about watching a student grow in this way. I feel honored to be a part of it. In addition, I think speech and debate is a transformational activity that has long-lasting impacts on those who participate in it. I’m passionate about mentorship, and speech and debate allows me [to form] a mentor/mentee relationship with the students in a way that traditional classroom teaching does not.”

VanEss has been shown many times by Miller that no matter what happens, he needs to be proud of himself, which has made him stronger at competitions.

“[Miller] constantly reminds me to be proud of what I’ve accomplished and how I’ve grown,” VanEss said. “Seeing her be open about things most people would keep hidden influences me to be more true to myself and to not care about what others think.”

Digital animation and game design freshman Morgan Keller is also a member of the Ferris State forensics team and has heard many stories from Miller.

“I could talk about how she had her hair eaten by a monkey, how she’s [drunken] snake blood or how she swam through a field of jellyfish,” Keller said. “I could talk about how she has a whole fantastical and ever-growing mythology tied to her, including fleeing from the FBI. While these are amazing, I’m not sure they truly highlight what makes her stand out.”

Keller believes that Miller has done a lot for her and her teammates.

“Though she has taught me and my teammates so much when it comes to speech and debate, she has also taught us so much about working with one another and has created an environment where we are allowed to be ourselves and work with one another,” Keller said. “Very rarely have I seen someone easily accept so many personalities in one space.”

Past and Present

Kristi Scholten, a communication professor and Miller’s close friend, has the utmost respect for Miller and all she does for her team.

“She really puts the team’s needs before her own, giving up her evenings and weekends to work with the team, drive them to tournaments, etc,” Scholten said. “As a former coach, I know that it isn’t easy to balance the different spheres of your life… It is easy to burn out. [Miller] brings an energy to the team that we haven’t seen in many years, and it is infectious.”

Monmouth University communication professor Trudi Peterson was a former colleague of Miller’s and talked about how Miller stood out from other people.

“I first met [Miller] when she interviewed for a scholarship at Monmouth College while she was still in high school,” Peterson said. “What stands out to me the most from that interview was that her responses to questions were detailed and nuanced; her passion for learning along with nascent critical thinking skills was clearly evident. Since that time, I have been able to witness her academic growth and personal development.”