Interview with Trevor Miller, 04/22/2016 (Transcript Only)

UW Oshkosh Campus Stories
Jonathan Moore, Interviewer | uwocs_Trevor_Miller_04222016.mp3
Campus Stories Oral History Project (UWO Audio Series 51) |

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JM: My name is Jonathan Moore, I am a junior at UW Oshkosh and I am interviewing Mr. Trevor Miller. Trevor which year did you graduate from UW Oshkosh?

TM: 2000.

JM: 2000? Alright. And then Trevor I sent you the Deed of Gifts online.

TM: That's right.

JM: And could you give me a verbal agreement to that document?

TM: I Agree.

JM: Awesome. I believe that's the correct way of doing this, I might have to send it to you, you might have to scan it.

TM: That's fine by me.

JM: Okay thank you. Basically I'm going to start this interview right now. Trevor could you just describe where you grew up?

TM: I'm originally from Marinette, Wisconsin. It's a small town on the border of upper Michigan and Wisconsin. It's about an hour north of Green Bay. The population when I lived there was 11,900 at the time. [Unclear] It's... [Unclear] with Menominee Michigan.

JM: Okay, I'm fairly familiar with the area. Did you have any siblings?

TM: Yeah I have a younger brother, he's 7 years younger than me. His name's Cody Miller, he actually ended up going to Oshkosh too.

JM: Oh wow. [Pause] What was your neighborhood like?

TM: I grew up in the country, sort of real working class, paycheck to paycheck. My father worked in a factory and made fire extinguishers most of the time I was growing up. And my Mom was a teller at a bank, at a local bank. So it wasn't really a neighborhood, it was more of a country road. We had a about 80 acres behind our house that we shared with my uncle and his family that next door was…. Growing up I was not much of a neighborhood …. My whole family, my dad is the youngest of 13 I think and my mom is the oldest of 9 and with one or two exceptions, they all lived and were born, raised and lived in Marinette County.

JM: Awesome. Would you say that was like a trend for the city? Families were born and raised there or did people migrate there for work?

TM: Yep, it definitely was when I was growing up and when I was there. There was a local paper mill, [Unclear] Kimberly Clark, it's still called Kimberly Clark now. There were two fire extinguisher plants where my dad worked, it was called Anthel. Tyco and something else... and there was also Marinette Marine, and those jobs formulated more than others. It was a place where jobs solely relied on government contracts more than others. [Unclear] and those types of ships were built there. I know now, in the last decade it has received a larger contracts in the defense department so a lot of folks have more jobs, more work. But it is still very much a city area that is trying to sort of find itself and figures itself out. A lot of places have closed, a lot of smaller companies are starting to pack up and sort of and die there so it's in the period of drought especially after the paper mill basically closed, actually most of the paper mill closed and a lot of factories are automated now so a lot of jobs had been lost but there were a lot more jobs compared to what it is now.

JM: Okay. Were you involved with the community at all?

TM: In Marinette?

JM: Yeah, did you play sports, church, 4H?

TM: To be honest I really wasn't involved in too many sports, I had played soccer in 7th grade mostly throughout high school. I remember going to church a little bit when I was younger, through confirmation. We weren't really involved in a lot of other extracurricular groups or organizations. Most of the time we were working and that's just what we did. But also it's a smaller town and opportunities were sort of few and far in-between.

JM: Yeah, did you have a job throughout high school or anything like that?

TM: Sure, I used to I worked at the local dairy queen in Peshtigo, it's a smaller town about two miles outside of Marinette. I worked there, and before I went to college I worked at Shopko in the lawn and garden center [Chuckles]

JM: [Chuckles]

TM: So I did that and then a few of the summers I came home between being in college one I worked in the fire extinguisher plant and the other job I worked paving roads. So that was sort of the extent of my Marinette work experience.

JM: Okay. So it seems like you had a wide variety of job experiences that you picked up in high school.

TM: Yeah.

JM: Did you know what you wanted to do at that stage in your life when you grew up?

TM: Yeah I had two great teachers in high school, even though I was never really a good student, I liked these teachers in high school. One was a social studies teacher his name was Bob Zoratto and the other was an economics teacher his name was [Chuckles] Yeah I can't remember. Anyways, I went to school to be a teacher. I thought that I would become a social studies teacher in a small town after I graduated from college but college made me take a different turn and I never ended up doing that. But that's what I thought I would be doing.

JM: Okay. Why UW-Oshkosh?

TM: Because it was- I don't know what it is now- but that was where a lot of teachers would go, as far as UW System goes. Out of my extended family about 30 or so cousins I think only 4 of them in all generations had gone on to college and left home. Until the options of out-of state college was never an option and never even considered. But, I went to Oshkosh because a lot of folks said that's where a lot of good teachers come from, and it was close to home and so that's where I chose to go.

JM: Okay. Did you visit campus at all when you were in high school or did you just kind of show up the first day of college classes?

TM: [Chuckles] No I went out and visited campus. Let's see, I visited Eau Claire, Lacrosse, Stevens Point and I think there was another one… not Green Bay, maybe Milwaukee? I don't remember. So I visited campus and I also had a couple friends from high school that were planning to attend Oshkosh as well. So, yeah after visiting and after getting sort of engaged with my surroundings, Oshkosh I thought was a good choice for me.

JM: Was there something in particular that stuck out to you about Oshkosh? Or was it just the combination of everything and your friends going?

TM: Nothing really stuck out, nothing I can recall right now. I recall reasons I didn't care for other campuses, but I don't recall the reason I gravitated or cared for Oshkosh. I'm not really sure if this necessarily really helps you. [Unclear] I don't recall necessarily what stuck out about Oshkosh.

JM: Okay. That's fine I was just curious.

TM: Mhm.

JM: Describe your transition from high school to college. Do you remember anything that was like hard for you? Or was it like a shock? Anything like that?

TM: I think probably the biggest transition was the opportunity. I think that was probably the first time where when I went to Oshkosh I sort of realized that there's a lot more opportunity in the world than what I knew growing up in a small town. So Oshkosh was that sort of initial step into opening up a greater world view. There was a lot more opportunity. I mean, outside of Oshkosh, you know, we didn't go on many trips when I was growing up, we didn't go to other states, we didn't do those sorts of things. I had been to Milwaukee and Green Bay but I knew that's not where I wanted to go to school. I met people in Oshkosh from Chicago, Minnesota, various parts of the Midwest. I was exposed to more than I realized at the time that was out there.

JM: Yeah, absolutely.

TM: Not only out there, but available to me. Things I could take part in, if that makes sense?

JM: Yes, it does. Do you remember your initial impression of your first semester?

TM: I wasn't ever a great student. I mostly enjoyed the social aspect of going to college. I think that transition was an eye opening window into a world I didn't know was retainable. That sort of, freedom and ability. I didn't have a lot of opportunity. I'd have to be on my own and it was a great experience. First semester I was there I was going to class, I was meeting new people and ended up meeting my future wife. It was a great entrance into a world I didn't know existed before.

JM: Okay, awesome. Dorms? I'm assuming you were in the dorms. Which dorm were you in?

TM: Fletcher hall, third floor.

JM: And how was the dorm life for you, did you get along with your roommate?

TM: My freshman year I actually knew the guy from high school and we lived with each other first semester. Even though we're still friends now, we never really liked living with each other. So he moved into North Scott, I think. And I ended up living with someone from Manitowoc and we lived together freshman year and sophomore year. We lived at the very end of the hallway, at the end of the hallway rooms, most of the walls were concrete block but the wall at the end was dry wall so you could put beer in the little box in the drywall to store beer and you wouldn't caught.

JM: Nice. So I'm assuming alcohol was banned. What were the dorm rules like back then?

TM: You know, it was at that time all guys wings and all women's wings, how the floor was designed. And you know, dudes are messy.

JM: Yeah.

TM: They leave shit everywhere that was the environment of the dorms at least back then.

JM: Did you have a CA or an Advisor on the floor?

TM: Yeah, I believe they were called RA's at the time. One guy Geoff, started with the G. We had another one named Shawn, and [Unclear] he was just weird. I don't remember too much about them, they weren't too strict, they were very nice but, yeah I don't remember too much about them.

JM: Okay. But they probably had the option to make your lives hell and be strict right?

TM: Yeah and they didn't so that was really nice.

JM: What did you think of the food on campus?

TM: Blackhawk commons? Was that there?

JM: Yep. Still there. It still stands.

TM: Then there was the Union? The food wasn't really that great. I lot of times it was ramen noodles or some other shitty microwave thing. I don't have a fond recollection of food on campus.

JM: Okay. What about parties? How were parties as an underclassman?

TM: I started Oshkosh the year after the push on alcohol party busts. So that was kind of the swing of things when I got there. My wife, we met when we were in college as freshman. We actually got busted at a party together, that's when we met and got busted and we got hauled off in a patty wagon to the police station. And we ended up working out fine. There was a lot of parties at the time. We went to house to house parties at the Greek houses everywhere. There was always parties going on around campus, there was always something going on and we it was a great time. It was fun.

JM: That's funny you met your wife getting busts [chuckles] Quite the romantic story.

TM: I know. Yeah it's a fun story to tell. But that's how we met!

JM: What was the procedure for getting busted back then?

TM: I remember it was a part on Amherst, and there was at that specific part there was some undercover cops that ended up buying a cup and five minutes later there was a knock on the door that the cops were coming and there was flashlights. I just remember holding someone doing a keg stand when the police came and tapped me on the shoulder and the police asked me to put him down.

JM: [Chuckles]

TM: and then they had every go out single file and take a breathalyzer test and in line you'd go one direction or the other and at the time we were put on a small like U-Haul kind of patty wagon ya know? Like in the back and then there was so many people that they ended up getting a city bus and bringing it down and having everyone drunk, there was probably 40 to 50-I don't know if I remember the number-teenagers on a bus going to the police station. Which was a party in itself. And so we all sort of went down there. And we had to get our photo taken? I don't remember, then we were issued a citation. It was cold and freezing out that night, then we had to walk back to campus so that was how parties were busted so we were a little bit hyped. So that was how parties got busted. At the time because there were issues from before, there was a big crackdown on house parties. So every time a house got busted or other things were happening or events, the law was busy. There would be these giant sort of riots in town that were just a bunch of drunk kids voiding the police. So the police would be .Kids would be climbing up street signs and throwing things. It was all mischief. At that time it was silly. Like we wanted to drink in peace underage so much that were going to go into the street and chant it. But that's what environment was like at that time.

JM: Yeah, my friend of mine, I interviewed him as a practice interview. He graduated in 1992 and he had stories to tell about the crazy riots that he saw and heard about from previous years. It makes sense that the police were prepared for anything.

TM: Yeah there was always that. But it was fun!

JM: Were there any stories that you heard that you thought might be true or anything you remember someone telling you about before you got there?

TM: A good friend of mine, we were roommates, he graduated a year ahead of me, he lived a half hour away from here but he was one of the people that got arrested for the riots before, after a party got busted. I think he was on top of a dumpster? And just started hanging out but he got punished by the school and they gave him a citation. And the case ended up going, he was trying to get double jeopardy case of being charged for the same crime twice or something.

JM: Yeah.

TM: He was on channel 2 or channel 5 and they interviewed Tanners lawyer. It was a whole thing. I remember that story, but as far as riots and stuff like that, I don't really recall.

JM: Okay. From we've looked into in our class is something about St. Patrick's Day riots.

TM: Oh yeah?

JM: There was always, well not always, sometimes riots on St. Patrick's Day? And that caused-

TM: Now- oh sorry.

JM: Go Ahead.

TM: Now that's spring break right? So people are gone?

JM: For years they scheduled St. Patrick's Day to be over spring break but I believe in 2006 I believe they changed it back but they were worried about whether or not they should do that because they were afraid of the riots again.

TM: I think the first, well this could be folk-tale, but I think the first year they changed that was the first year I got there so 1994 which may have been the riots from the year before it made a national news story. So the whole time I was there, spring break was over St. Patrick's Day.

JM: Yeah that makes sense. What about the bars back then? What was that life like?

TM: At the time we mostly, was that on Wisconsin? Kelly's, and-

JM: Yep that's Wisconsin.

TM: There was French Quarter, Kelly's, Molly's obviously, there was something at one time called The Library. Which was a pretty shitty bad place. Not like Kelly's was much better.

JM: [Chuckles]

TM: There was a bar called [Dads?] we would get over the bridge and go from there. Then there was these bars downtown. As we got older, Oblio's, I think there was something called B&B's? The bar on the corner, not sure what it's called. There was also this bar with weird lava lamp liquid type things in the walls. But those places were all downtown. Mostly good, especially during the week. There was bars around Wisconsin and French Quarter around that area. I assume that there's still Kelly's Beer Gardens?

JM: Yep.

TM: And every year they used to have a house on the corner of Amherst and Wisconsin and we used to hangout the time of Beer Gardens on the last day we used to have beer slides and just huge- I remember those were the times when they would just let people do whatever they wanted to do as far as drinking. I remember houses at the time that the rules were much more relaxed. But those were the bars we went to. When I go there now- we saw some friends here a year or so ago, and it was all completely rebuilt, there's apartments over there now and I think Molly's the French Quarter and Kelly's other than that, every things gone. So yeah, I remember the bars there.

JM: Okay. You mentioned Beer Gardens, that's still exists these days. Was there a pub crawl back then?

TM: No. I don't remember anything like that.

JM: Oh okay.

TM: At least s not anything big from what I remember.

JM: Okay. Were you involved in any extracurricular activities throughout college? Sports, clubs, Greek life?

TM: No. Besides drinking, I was not involved.

JM: [Chuckles] Were sports big back then?

TM: Not really, soccer was a little big and I was friends with those guys. Never went to a football game. Baseball was pretty big actually. The baseball field and football stadium were hard to get to. Are they still off campus?

JM: Yes it's right across the river.

TM: Yeah. So it was not, anything too big.

JM: Okay. What about Greek life?

TM: My wife was a Phi Beta? I never really got into that stuff. I had a lot of friends that were and they had pretty decent parties back then but my involvement was taking my wife to the formals.

JM: Okay. But you'd say [Greek Life] was pretty big?

TM: I think it was, there were people in my time that took it seriously.

JM: Yeah it's definitely died down to very little these days.

TM: I remember the houses on Algoma? I can't remember which street but when we drove through, it seemed like there was a lot of houses that were Greek houses in the past were no longer allowed. I'm not sure if it's a multicultural church or something like that? It definitely looked like the Greek life has died down a lot.

JM: Yes it definitely has. I don't know the percentage of the population these days but I'd say it's less than 10 in Greek life.

TM: Oh yeah. It seemed like there was a lot more back in my day.

JM: Yeah. So what kind of student were you in college.

TM: Not a very good one!

JM: [Chuckles]

TM: Obviously something I regret now that I work at a University. I was the kid who was still trying to find himself, not concentrating very hard. I saw the opportunities and things happening around me and I thought better things to focus on than going to school. Like I said, I went to school to be a teacher, I majored in history and then got involved in Government and Politics. I was involved in the [Pause] yeah it was the '98th congressional district. There was a democratic encompass in Green Bay, and that was the year Bill Clinton got impeached, so obviously it was a tough year for democrats. I worked on that campaign. It was pretty awesome so I focused more on that rather than studies and school. It was the only democratic encompass to lose but that's when I started getting into politics and that's the directed I went after working on that campaign.

JM: Okay. So you started out as a history major, correct?

TM: Yeah. To be a teacher.

JM: And what drove you into politics? Did you take like a Poli-Sci class? Or were you always curious about it?

TM: I had always been curious about it. I think as more of going back to a high school history, social studies teacher who knew a lot about politics. I remember being in kindergarten with the Bill on Capitol Hill, watching it on TV and watching those things. Then I found I was interested and found I was pretty good at the stuff. And that was a necessary direction for me and opened my eyes that can actually get a job in it. My last two years of college I got an internship in college, it was the first time I had ever been in Washington, working for Russ Feingold. I was excited and thrilled to be in Washington D.C. then I went back to school and graduated the next year. After I graduated I drove back to D.C.

JM: Wow, that's awesome and I'm assuming that in itself was very eye opening for you considering you said Oshkosh was eye opening for you.

TM: Yeah. It was fun, it was an experience. You know, I wanted to get into teaching because I was bright-eyed and bushy tailed and I wanted to make a difference and I saw that the same could be done in politics and so being able to work at some of the highest levels in Washington, working Washington D.C. and went on to eventually help with the presidential election in 2000-8? Yeah. I worked a little with that as well.

JM: Wow. Alright. So you're very involved. I'm assuming you switched your major to Political Science, correct?

TM: Nope, history. I was a double major in history and economics and then after that internship I just wanted to finish my degree and I just finished with a history degree.

JM: Alright. I'm going to back track you a little bit since we have some time here. Were your classes pretty hard or did high school prepare you for the level that that the University expected you to be at?

TM: I don't think the classes were hard, I think I wasn't motivated. I don't think I was prepared to motivate myself at a college level. I was an average and decent so I don't think that was a reflection on the classes, it was a reflection on my attitude at the time.

JM: Okay. Did you have a favorite class or a professor that sticks out at the time?

TM: Yup. I remember there was a professor, I think his name was Dr. Haravick? He was a biology professor, I think it was biology. And he had such way-and I wasn't even interested in sedimentary rocks, layers and plants or anything like that- but he would take us places around Oshkosh, to trails and other sort of nature areas. He was someone that really peeked interests of people like me. He was someone who could get through to average students like myself the importance of other things around us.

JM: Okay, absolutely. Were you able to choose your classes or was there a certain amount of classes you had to take before you could start taking class for you major?

TM: Yeah, I think one of the things that encouraged a student like myself was that I didn't have to take only history classes or economics. I had to take Active Life Styles and other classes that I didn't see helped me or really care for. Now I say that, then I end up taking a biology class and having a positive experience like I had. I felt like at the time they were a waste of time to study, I think I would've had more focus on my study but it would have altered what I wanted to pursue after college.

JM: Yeah absolutely, I felt myself questioning the reason behind gen-eds then I think about all of the things that I never would've imagined learning. What was the most popular major at the time?

TM: The most popular what?

JM: Majors.

TM: Probably business.

JM: Okay.

TM: Business and nursing? Yeah the first two years you apply to the [pause] teaching school, teaching program or something. Obviously there was a lot of the business ones. That's what I remember.

JM: Yeah it definitely still stands to this day.

TM: They just added on Clow now right?

JM: They just gutted out Clow, but added Sage. It's the newest building on campus that sticks out and that's where the School of Business is located.

TM: Oh okay.

JM: What about multicultural facilities or courses, anything like that on campus?

TM: Yeah, I remember the multicultural center, but I don't know where it was located. I took a writing class, I don't remember the teacher. But I took an African American Writing class and that was pretty interesting. I don't know the teachers name but he had been the adjutant at the time. I remember that. I remember the push on that but as far as other on-campus stuff there was nothing I remember.

JM: Okay. Looking back on my previous interview, it definitely has progressed to what it is now. He didn't remember a Multicultural center or any courses involving African American studies, classes like that. And now there is a big push towards it. We have a fairly multicultural campus but still predominantly remains white as it always has.

TM: Yeah, I remember our campus [U of M] has adopted a specialty to encouraging multicultural students because that's where we need to alter the population so it will be interesting to see where it goes.

JM: Yes absolutely. Was there any racial disputes on campus? Or was there a grudge to a different race? Or did everyone pretty much get along for the most part?

TM: I don't recall anything sort of popping up or anything around issues like that. I don't remember anything. There wasn't a lot of issues in my friend group. There wasn't a lot of issues involving that.

JM: Okay. Was there any political dispute during your time in college? I know you were part of the election but was there any movements on campus or anything like that?

JM: With the exception of drinking, I can't recall any of those sort of fights against the administration or the issue that there now on tuition. We didn't have a lot of those issues that. There wasn't big issues while I was there.

JM: Okay. What did the town people of Oshkosh think of the students?

TM: I think locals were necessary people. There didn't really seem to be a whole lot of intermingling. But when you get out to Jackson Street there's those houses. I think now the campus tries to put a bigger push on community than it did back then. The University of Minnesota is one the biggest in the country but it's also part of a large metropolitan area. If you're at Ohio State you're pretty much the main thing in Columbus Ohio, but there's also that tension at times between community members. Besides a few little minor things here and there, I don't recall anything. Actually I do recall, a guy from Steven's Point pulled a gun on us so there was some tension there [laughs].

JM: Okay so have you visited campus? Or did you continue to visit campus after you left? How long did you stay in Oshkosh for prior to graduation?

TM: right after graduation I moved to D.C. three days later so I didn't stick around for much. I have a friend that still lives in the area and I visited him, I think twice? He was there 2008, 2010? Somewhere in there. I do have a friend that has a house in Suamico and then we had some time to boat around on Lake Winnebago so we try to find time to go back every couple of years.

JM: Alright. What do you think has changed the most since you attended school here?

TM: For me it's just the whole campus and the surrounding area. There are streets now that don't exist. The street in front of Fletcher Hall, used to be a pass through street. Another dorm on the corner, I forget what it's called, they're brand new dorms in the sort of triangle between Fletcher and Reeve. The traffic circle [Unclear] is now a bunch of apartments. Schwab realities and Schwab properties developed the area. The biggest change is the campus, it's completely different. Reeve union used to be a pit and now it's really nice. So there's a lot that stuff on campus that is completely different from when I went there.

JM: Yeah absolutely. That's pretty much the same description I got from the previous person I interviewed. All the new apartments around here taking up the corner space as well as the new buildings. Can you describe your career progression after college a little bit?

TM: Sure. Like I said I moved to D.C. three days after I graduated, I lived in a friend's closet, barely. I campaigned around with Senator Russ Feingold I actually worked with him a bunch. I was his scheduler and his personal assistant. And so I did that for about a year in his office and then I became the deputy clerk secretary in the [unclear] office for about a year or so. Then most of the time out there I was a press secretary. It was a blast at the time, I think I was the youngest press secretary in Senate. So the opportunity that he gave me was exponential, it was a huge thing. After that, like I said I was he was considering running for president a couple years leading up to when president why he didn't I will never know the answer but that was a really fun experience. I was in political operations then in 2010 and then I was the communications director. I moved on obviously and [unclear] I was still bright eyed and bushy tailed and wanted to make a difference so I turned down some different publication jobs and [unclear] I'm at the college of design right now. I teach [Unclear] and communications marketing. So we've been here since 2011 and we love it, it's a lot of fun. My wife works at a bible school now. We moved to St. Paul, it's been great. I still get to talk to my old bosses running for senate again. [Unclear] It's nice to do what I do now and be able to help student's help [Unclear] help the university out as a whole, I realize they are transformational things [Unclear] it's a blast.

JM: Awesome. That's quite the career progression. How did your experiences here in at UW Oshkosh influence your career in the long run?

TM: I think this goes back to what we talked about, I'm from a very small town and being exposed in Oshkosh, exposed to different responsibilities and I sort of realized the cause for me personally. I think that's the biggest takeaway that I have from my time being there. As far as my professional development, if I would've went somewhere else, I probably wouldn't have gotten involved in politics, my life you be different. I wouldn't have met my wife, I wouldn't have the kids that I have. If I hadn't gone to college my life would be a lot different than it is right now. So that's sort of my takeaway regarding my time at Oshkosh.

JM: Alright. We're at an hour and five minutes. I think that will conclude our interview.

TM: Okay.

JM: I just want to say thank you very much for your participation in this history project. As well as your speaking abilities, you made my job very easy.

TM: [Laughs]

JM: So I thank you for that.

TM: You bet.

JM: If I need anything else from you I will be contacting you, I'll email you, something like that. But yeah, thanks again.

TM: No problem.

JM: Have a good one.

TM: Alright man you too, good luck.

JM: Goodbye.

TM: Take care, goodbye.

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