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Jan. 24, 2024

Alumna’s teaching, research achievements earn national honors

Northwest Missouri State University alumna Dr. Carol Miller has developed a reputation during her long career as not just an impartial law teacher but a prolific researcher, having more than 100 publications under her name.

Winter 2023 magazine Cover thumbnail

A shortened version of this story appears in the winter 2023 edition of the Northwest Alumni Magazine. View the print version of the magazine in its entirety by clicking here.

Last summer, she added another honor to her list of achievements when she received the Distinguished Career Achievement Award presented by the Academy of Legal Studies in Business (ALSB).

“I was very pleased,” Carol said. “It was like the cherry on top of my career.”

Now in her 40th year of teaching, she serves as a distinguished professor of business law at Missouri State University in Springfield, where her teaching and research interests focus on environmental law, constitutional law, tobacco regulation and eminent domain. She is the only faculty member in Missouri State’s College of Business to hold the rank of distinguished professor – a rank above full professor and selected by a university-wide committee. 

She has accumulated 30 research-related awards or fellowships during her career, including ALSB’s National Excellence in Research Award in 2007 and a best article award from The Missouri Bar. Among other awards and honors, she received the Missouri Lawyers Media Women’s Justice Award as a legal scholar in 2010. At Missouri State, she is a recipient of its Board of Governor’s Public Affairs Award in 2019 as well as a three-time recipient of its Dean’s Research Professorship and a three-time recipient of its University Foundation Research Award.

She has been a member of ALSB – an association of nearly 1,000 college-level teachers and scholars specializing in the law field – since 1982, and she served as its president during 2012-13.

“I like organizing complex concepts in a way for students to understand them and apply them to real-world situations,” Carol said. “I enjoy trying to find new applications of traditional legal theories.”

In the classroom, her research and the way she teaches students about the legal field may be more important now than ever – particularly when it comes to environmental law, as the world grapples with climate change and debates regulations. Students laud her as a challenging instructor who is passionate about the subject matter and allows them to respectfully offer differing viewpoints.

“I have a lot of assignments because things are constantly changing,” she said. “They need to know how to look up and apply – not memorize – something that by the time they get out of school has changed.”

Dr. Carol Miller stands with a longleaf pine last summer at Lovett Pinetum in Strafford, Missouri. During her 40 years of teaching, Miller has taken a special interest in environmental law. (Photo by Kevin White / Missouri State University)

Dr. Carol Miller stands with a longleaf pine last summer at Lovett Pinetum in Strafford, Missouri. During her 40 years of teaching, Miller has taken a special interest in environmental law. (Photo by Kevin White / Missouri State University)

Carol traces her interest in research to her days at Horace Mann Laboratory School, where she attended through the eighth grade, and one of her teachers, Pauline Arthur, emphasized writing skills. In addition to completing a 10-page term paper, Arthur instructed students to keep spelling and vocabulary notebooks. Students regularly published a school newspaper that was inserted in The Northwest Missourian, read at least 1,000 pages in history-related books and wrote plays based on the books they read.

“I credit her with my writing ability more than anything else,” Carol said. “Even when I was in law school, although I wasn’t at the top of my law school class, I did set the curve when there was a paper to write.”

It also didn’t hurt that Carol was the daughter of Dr. Leon Miller, who had an accomplished 35-year-career at Northwest that included service as chair of the education department, Horace Mann director, dean of instruction and the first dean of the Graduate School, in addition to overseeing the state oratorical contest for nearly 30 years. Carol’s mother, Mary Belle Miller, also was an educator.

As a Northwest freshman and sophomore, Carol entered speech contests and was an intercollegiate debater, which served her well during law school. As a freshman, she won a campus-wide contest for introductory speech students.

But after two years at Northwest, Carol transferred to the University of Missouri-Columbia. She completed a legislative internship and another with the lieutenant governor’s office as a senior student while finishing her bachelor’s degree in history in 1975. She then enrolled in the University of Missouri law school, where she completed a juris doctorate in 1978, and in 1979 was a law clerk for Missouri Supreme Court Chief Justice June P. Morgan, a 1940 Northwest alumnus.

Later in 1979, tragedy struck the Miller family when Carol’s sister, Gayle Miller Bilden, a 1976 Northwest alumna, was killed in a car crash. Carol returned to Maryville to be with her parents and – having earned nearly enough credits toward another bachelor’s degree during her previous coursework at Northwest – completed a degree in social science at the University. Then that fall, Dr. William Fleming, a popular American history instructor, died suddenly and Carol was asked to take his place in front of the classroom, which began her teaching career during the 1979-1980 academic year at Northwest.  

Carol eventually opted to focus on teaching law, and she’s been doing it ever since – except for a year away from the classroom when she joined Strong Law Firm, selected to a team of 49 lawyers from throughout the state, to work on litigation that sued tobacco companies on behalf of the Missouri Attorney General’s Office, a monumental case resulting in a $6.7 billion recovery to the state.

Before moving to Missouri State in 1984, she taught at Indiana State University for three years. She also taught in London with the Missouri London program in 1991 and in Germany with the Magellan Program during the summer of 2016.

Today, Carol remains closely connected to Northwest and retains her parents’ home in Maryville. To uphold her support of the University, Carol and her mother established the Dr. Leon F. Miller Graduate Grant Award in 2012. Additionally, Carol and her parents established the Gayle Miller Bilden Memorial Scholarship for chemistry majors in honor of her younger sister.

“It’s especially important for me to honor my dad’s memory there,” Miller said. “That scholarship is extremely important to me, and I hope it helps in a little way, and future graduate generations have some awareness of what he did at the University.”


Dr. Mark Hornickel
Administration Building
Room 215