Back on campus, ready to listen

Published June 18, 2007

TAMPA - Lesley "Les" Miller Jr. knows what it's like to be a man about campus.

Thirty years ago, he was elected the University of South Florida's first black student body president. He served on the state Board of Regents, pledged Kappa Alpha Psi and made sure he found time to study for exams.

Now, he's the man on campus whom students will turn to when they're having trouble handling the college experience.

Miller, 56, was named USF's director of community relations and student ombudsman in April. In one role, he'll be the face of the university, helping to grow its partnerships. In the other, he'll listen to student complaints about tough professors, unbearable dorm mates and the general tribulations of college life.

He'll provide solutions when he can.

"Regardless of what their problems or issues may be, I'm here for them," Miller said. "I'm here to do whatever I can to make their lives easier while they are a member of the family of the University of South Florida."

He began settling into his new job during finals week. With a light student complaint load, Miller has been researching other universities that have student ombudsmen to find out how their offices operate. There's one at the University of Florida and one at the University of Central Florida.

USF last had one during Frank Borkowski's tenure as university president from 1988 to 1993.

A lot has changed since 1977, when Miller was student body president. Including the fact that USF now pays Miller -- $90,000 a year -- to be there.

So far, as student ombudsman, he has helped a student who was hospitalized and couldn't get to class. He counseled another student who was having a financial problem with her living situation.

"It's not often that someone can say that they got not only their education but their political start at a university," Miller said. "It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to come back, and I'm hoping I can make a difference."

Kevin Graham can be reached at (813) 226-3433 or kgraham@sptimes.com.


Lesley Miller Jr.

Occupation: Director of community relations and student ombudsman for the University of South Florida.

Work history:

- Served in the Florida Senate from 2000 through 2006.

- Served in the Florida House of Representatives from 1992 through 2000.

- Former manager of minority business development and governmental relations at Tampa General Hospital.