Creating a Pathway of Success For Female Engineers

Growing up Sara RS Miller ’86 never thought a career in engineering was a possibility for her; now today the MSOE Wall of Distinction member is paving the way for future females in her industry.

Miller started her career working in cheese manufacturing. After being assigned projects involving automation, she enrolled at MSOE to take engineering courses to enhance her skills. In 1986, she graduated with an Associate of Science degree in Computer Engineering Technology and credits that degree for helping her flourish early on in her career.

“MSOE provided the learn-by-doing method that I needed to prepare for the inevitable change in technology, allowing me to embrace the new fields of machine control and automation,” said Miller.

In November of 1991, Miller met alumnus Kenn Anderson ’72 at the installation ceremony for MSOE’s fourth president, Dr. Hermann Viets. At that time, Miller was operating Valley Controls Inc., her own PLC soft ware company. “Kenn and I quickly learned we both worked in the same market but offered different complementary technical and management services,” said Miller. In 1995, the two co-founded NOVA Systems, a hands-on automation company.

Over the next couple decades, the Milwaukee-based company grew from a small two-person operation with a few customers to a thriving business with a customer base exceeding 250 businesses. In 2020, Miller sold the company and retired.

Since graduation, miller has remained engaged with MSOE focusing on two of her favorite things: continually learning and helping others.

While she’s been philanthropically supporting the university since the late 1980s, she also lent her expertise as an instructor for MSOE. While still taking courses in the CET program, Miller taught economics, statistics and quality assurance courses through MSOE’s Continuing Education Department at SC Johnson in Racine, Wisconsin and at Mercury Marine in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. “I remember having two MSOE ID cards, one as an instructor/employee and one as a student,” she said.

Education has always been an important part of Miller’s philosophy in life. “My husband Howard and I have helped support our nieces and nephews and children of friends’ educations by gifting them laptops for their high school graduation, to help aid them in their future studies,” said Miller.

In the fall of 2022, Miller spoke at the dedication of MSOE’s Alumni Plaza and announced plans to extend her philanthropic generosity by creating a student scholarship. This past spring the Sara RS Miller Scholarship Fund was established to support female students pursuing a career in the applications of factory automation. “I wanted to make sure other females are included in the exciting developments in automation that have enhanced my life,” said Miller.

She commemorated that special moment with a personalized paver in University Terrace. It serves as both a reminder of all Miller’s been able to achieve because of MSOE, and a sign of inspiration for future generations who may one day walk in her footsteps. “I never thought about being an engineer when I was growing up. My hope is for future female engineers to see my name while considering MSOE and be encouraged that they too can become engineers and be successful.”