Recent grad makes a splash in the Platteville community

When Baird Miller came to UW-Platteville, the Madison, Wisconsin native and former competitive swimmer described himself as feeling “like a fish out of water.” However, his love for swimming opened up new, unexpected connections for him on campus and in the greater Platteville community that he still holds on to today, even after graduating with his degree in psychology last December. 

“I experienced a little culture shock,” said Miller. “Spending my whole life in Madison, I was more accustomed to larger metropolitan areas.”

Miller looked for any excuse to be in the pool. After the first couple weeks of classes, he started teaching children’s swim lessons for UW-Platteville’s Continuing Education Institute. Miller found out that the Continuing Education Institute also coordinated senior water classes and thought teaching would be a great way to meet the community.

“I hadn’t met much of the town or [immersed] myself into the community outside of the university bubble,” said Miller. “Teaching water classes shattered that box.”

Teaching the classes played a pivotal role in Miller’s college experience. While teaching the water aerobics night class, he met Matt Wunderlin, the head swim coach for the Platteville High School swim team. Miller began helping to coach the boys and girls high school swim team. Some of the swimmers he coached had grandparents in his water aerobics classes, which have a large following.

“Through water aerobics, I became friends with over a hundred different community members, many having spent years of their personal and professional lives working in Southwest Wisconsin,” said Miller. “Making all these friends drastically shifted my view of Platteville, and I really fell in love with this town.”

Miller noted how beneficial it is for students, especially those not from the area, to involve themselves with the community in Platteville. He said he has learned much from the university, through teaching classes, attending community events on adulthood/aging, Alzheimer’s and dementia, and learning more about the effects of exercise on offsetting memory-related conditions.

“I learned a lot at UW-Platteville that has helped me teach classes. I model the communication skills and structure that the teachers in my classrooms demonstrated,” said Miller. “UW-Platteville also humbled me a lot, which has helped me teach the classes. Over half the women enrolled hold Ph.D.s and master’s degrees, but you would never know unless you ask. The more I got to know the participants, the more I was able to pull knowledge from their vault of experience. It sometimes feels like I’m a student teaching a class of professors.”

Miller actually has a couple of his former teachers in his class.

“[My] experience taught me a lot about myself and helped me transition into launching my career as a teacher,” said Miller. “This city is filled with untapped opportunities within the community for students; all they need to do is cross South Hickory Street.”

Miller recently started teaching full time at Platteville Middle School. He is currently instructing water exercise classes on Mondays and Wednesdays.