Susan Ubben ’75 Miller detoured from her social work career for 12 years but that hasn’t prevented her from gaining recognition for her visionary work as CEO of Rose Brooks Center, a domestic violence program in Kansas City, MO. Miller has been named an Influential Woman for 2011 by the Kansas City business community. This follows multiple awards that Rose Brooks Center and Miller have received for excellence in nonprofit leadership from civic organizations and media outlets.
“It’s rewarding work but I always feel I can’t take credit for what we accomplish,” say Miller, who majored in psychology and English at North Central. “My staff is amazing and we have an incredible group of volunteers and board of directors.”
The goal of Rose Brooks is to break the cycle of domestic violence so families can live free of abuse. Last year, the organization served 15,000 women and children with prevention programs, crisis intervention, emergency shelter, therapeutic services and transitional housing. Miller oversees a budget of $5 million, a staff of 90 and 3,000 volunteers.
“The demand for services just keeps growing,” says Miller. “We’ve been over capacity the past year and a half which is related to the recession but also to the Lethality Assessment Project we implemented with the Kansas City Police Department.” Police officers use a questionnaire at the scene of a domestic violence call to determine if someone is at risk of being killed. After a “yes” reply to any of the indicators, the officer will express concern for the family’s safety and call Rose Brooks Center.
The center also runs support groups for children and a transitional housing program that displaced individuals and families can utilize for up to two years.
At North Central, Miller pursued a social work career through internships at Elgin Mental Health Center and a psychiatric hospital in Chicago. She completed a master’s in social work at the University of Illinois and helped start Groundwork, a domestic violence program at Guardian Angel Home in Joliet.
“The intensity of working with sexual assault victims made me want a career change,” Miller says. So she found a job with First Bank of Chicago and then she and husband Ronald Miller ’73 operated a restaurant in Tampa, FL, for nine years. They relocated to Kansas City 15 years ago. During her job search, she was told she’d be perfect for the open CEO position at Rose Brooks Center, despite a 12-year absence from social work.
“It felt like it was my life’s destiny,” Miller says. “I just can’t be too far away from this work.”