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When you log in to check your emails, scroll through the latest TikTok’s… or even when starting up your car in the morning – whether you know it or not – your safety & online security are dependent on something called cybersecurity. The newest addition to our roster of unmissable People of Marquette is Doug Miller, a retired Army Experimental Test Pilot & Technical Program Manager who’s recently found himself as Director of the Upper Michigan Cybersecurity Institute at Northern Michigan University. Pairing his love for all things cyber along with his impassioned dedication to the outdoors, alongside his family, Doug continues to find ways to be of service to his communities, inspiring & educating wherever he goes. He envisions accessible, yet safe spaces for growing connections here in Marquette, but you won’t just catch him uplifting those ideals from behind a computer – he takes his passions out into the outdoors as well. Whether he’s casting a line into Carp River, off on a hike, or even trail riding through Marquette’s assortment of local trails, Doug finds ways to cultivate & nurture the communities he cares for the most in his every day. But like we mentioned earlier, he has never stood alone…
Let’s Meet the Miller’s
Doug & Pam first met when they were just teenagers in Colorado. Both children of military families, they were accustomed to the “Army brat” lifestyles from an early age, meaning they were typically housed on or near the various bases their parents were stationed at during their years of active service. Both Doug & Pam’s fathers had actually served separately for a short time at K.I. Sawyer in Gwinn back when it used to be an active United States Military Base. A fascinating coincidence, one the couple playfully acknowledged as Doug recalled more of his history with the Marquette area: “My grandma and grandpa (on my mom’s side) are from [Upper Michigan]. My dad met my mom when he was stationed at K.I. Sawyer. So my grandparents had a camp out by 550”, he recalled, “my dad was stationed at K.I. Sawyer a few times, Colorado a few times… Montana… [I was] a typical Air Force child… my dad retired out of Colorado, but we would always come back during the summer or during Christmas and spend time out at camp visiting my grandparents and things like that”.
“We’re high school sweethearts”, Pam had to say about the beginnings of their relationship, “we went to a Catholic high school in Colorado Springs, both our parents were stationed there [at the time]. He asked me out, but I wasn’t old enough to date…we actually grew up about a block away from each other, but hung out with different kids. Eventually, we went out on a date. Been married since 1989”. Recalling the first time she experienced Marquette, Pam remembered one of the couple’s earliest adventures together, “the day after I graduated high school, I got in a car with [Doug’s family]”. They traveled to Marquette together on one of Doug’s family’s routine trips. “[Marquette] was fabulous”, she continued, distinctly remembering thinking to herself – “sometime I’ll live here”.
Coming Home to Marquette
With Marquette ever in the back of their minds, Doug & Pam soon found themselves adventuring all over the world. “I joined the ROTC program in Colorado”, Doug explained, “I joined the Army right after. Got real lucky and started flying helicopters…just about went all over the world. My first assignment was in Germany, then Iraq… I went overseas to work at the embassy in Norway, [it was] absolutely fantastic”. Similarly to their own upbringing, Doug & Pam would eventually ingrain upon their two daughters the very same “Army brat” lifestyles they had experienced themselves. “We have two daughters”, Doug proudly stated, “Mallory and Meredith… Malory was born in Germany. Meredith was born in New York… By the time [we were in Norway], both daughters were old enough – we needed to start thinking about college and where [Pam and I] wanted to retire. We started looking at colleges overseas when we were in Norway, it was what [the girls] wanted to do. Mallory went to Michigan Tech without having ever been on campus”.
Towards the end of his military career, Doug & Pam found themselves back in Michigan. “When we came back [to the states], we went down to the Detroit area for a little bit… I retired, became a government civilian supporting the Army… then I went back overseas to England for over a year”. During that time away for Doug, Mallory was well into her education at Michigan Tech for Geological Engineering, and Meredith had decided she wanted to go to Northern Michigan University for Culinary Arts. Pam chimed in at this point, remembering a question she kept asking herself about why they were spending time in Detroit, “when the kids are all up in [Upper Michigan]? Doug was in England, so I bought the house [in Marquette]… he flew in and moved into a house he has never seen”.
“After moving around so much it feels great to be here”, Pam continued, “we actually got to choose to be here instead of being told where to go. In Norway, with all the skiing every week… even though Marquette’s small and cozy, it reminds us a bit of Oslo. Even though [Oslo] was large, you could be out in the country skiing in like 2 minutes. You can be anywhere in 15 minutes here [in Marquette], we love it. We see us staying here”.
The Adjustment Period
“The way I first became involved in Marquette was by volunteering at the Harbor House”, Pam began, “I spent several years there at the shelter and getting to know the staff and residents. That was huge for me. While I was doing that, I was also raising leader dogs for the blind. We’ve raised 4 dogs since we’ve been up here… I’m also a part of MARS (Marquette Alger Resolution Service), I’ve done that training so I can help with mediations”. Through her past work at the Harbor House, in particular, Pam was able to help provide care & assistance to any women and children that happened to be in need of care, shelter, or protection from domestic troubles. Pam is also still an active part of the sexual response team for the Women’s Center. You can visit the Women’s Center’s Harbor House Program website for a more detailed list of services they can provide, but overall, it’s an incredible, free 24-hour community program that’s been making an unmistakable impact for their “residential and outreach clients” for years (Women’s Center Marquette).
Doug is also an active volunteer in the local community, “I kind of navigate volunteering towards the things I enjoy doing outdoors”, he explained, “with the 906 Adventure Team, I was able to coach for [them] for a couple of years. I took a couple of years off for a hip replacement, but I’ll be back next year. The NTN (Noquemanon Trail Network) Forest Trail, I did that before I was hired on as Program Director [at Northern Michigan University]. [I’m] also [involved with] Trout Unlimited, I’m on the board & I’m the treasurer, that’s kind of a connection [I share] with my dad”. As we’re sure you can tell, Doug has an immense passion for the outdoors here in Marquette (as well as the greater U.P.). When it comes to fishing, however, that’s an outdoors experience that Doug is particularly attached to, “it’s just a phenomenal asset… what we have up here. The streams and the outdoors – it’s not endless, you have to be careful with how much you use – but you could fish for days and not see someone else when you’re out on those streams”. Taking some time to reflect back on where his family has lived over the years, Doug finished by saying, “we’ve been fortunate enough to live in a lot of places, but there’s nothing else like this out there. There are other places that have kind of matched the U.P., but you’re fighting for a spot at those locations… we just keep finding rivers to fish… we have so much fun”.
Talking more about their outdoor adventures, the couple made sure to highlight their love of Lake Superior & the unique biking culture around town. “When we were in Norway”, Doug recalled, “the ability to get from our house to 1000’s of miles of ski trails and biking and water is unlike anything else… except in Marquette. The only thing we don’t have in Marquette is the traffic. In 5 or 10 minutes, you can be on your bike on some amazing mountain bike trails. It’s a great resource”. Pam playfully interjected, saying “I have a little beach cruiser. My style is on the pavement… I like to ride and just look at the lake. We both like to ride bikes, but completely differently”, she joked, before adding “there’s access to so much lake [in Marquette]. When we were downstate [in Detroit], it was all private. You had to be a part of a club to get to a lake”. “That’s something Marquette can offer”, Doug continued, “there’s hardcore mountain biking, but there’s also the Iron Ore Heritage Trail – there are things that people want for that type of biking”.
“What makes Marquette special for me -” Doug began, before suddenly interrupting himself in the middle of his own sentence to comment on what was happening outside – “it’s snowing!” – which was, notably, the first snowfall of this winter season. Doug pressed onwards, obviously impassioned as if his own interjection never happened – “I was fortunate enough to be at a volunteer event at the Superior Health Foundations [where they were] giving out grants this year. I sat through about 30 presentations for what those grant dollars are doing – and it was incredible. The variety of ways Yoopers are helping Yoopers… hearing the breadth of what’s going on in the U.P… it’s awesome”. Returning to his original topic of what makes Marquette so special, he finished by saying, “quite honestly, it’s the outdoors… but really the way people help each other here is pretty cool”.
Another thing that both Pam & Doug have also attuned to during their shared time here in Marquette, is how protective & vocal the community is of public spaces, historic buildings, and, of course, the Lake Superior shoreline. “I don’t feel like anything old is going away”, Pam shared, “we’re just adding to it”. Doug added his thoughts as well, “The old school residents of Marquette – I know they’ve got some concerns about how things are going… but you used to go down to Lower Harbor and there was a bunch of slag – now there’s a great park for kids and parties and festivals. Change for some of those things is good”.
Cybersecurity – The Family Business
Pam and Doug aren’t the only members of their family embracing Marquette, however, let’s not be too quick to forget Meredith, the youngest of their two daughters, who are carving out her own path here in the region. You’ll remember that Meredith came to the U.P. following her time in Oslo, which, according to her father, was “where Meredith developed her love for baking and cooking. She took multiple cooking and baking classes… it was a fantastic experience for her”. “I think that was how we got connected to NMU”, Doug continued, “Pam started checking out the culinary and hospitality programs, [we] thought it was a really good fit”. Following Meredith’s first semester, however, she ultimately decided it wasn’t the right fit for her professionally. We were able to sit down with Meredith shortly after our conversation with Doug & Pam, so we were fortunate enough to hear her story from her own perspective: she explained, “so when I first came to Northern I thought ‘Hospitality Management’ – great program – but once I started in the program realized I didn’t want to be in the hospitality management business. I love cooking and all of that, but I realized I wanted to do something different, so I started looking into business”. After Meredith decided that she wanted the change, her mother, Pam, became a great resource and helped her find a new field that she would enjoy; “[there are] so many programs within the business college. My mom, actually, found the Cybersecurity Program, [she] sent me to the website, and she was right. [It was] something I would like. I got a hold of the Department Head and chatted for a bit, and was able to enroll in the classes and had a great time”.
Meredith’s swelling interests in the world of cybersecurity proved to be incredibly worthwhile for her. When she graduated from NMU in 2018 with her degree in Information Insurance & Cyber Defense, she had an amazing job offer already waiting for her. “[She had] an internship with IBM between [her] junior & senior year”, Doug kindly explained”, [they] kept her on for her senior year, and she graduated with a job offer in hand”. “At Northern, I was fortunate and able to have that internship with IBM”, Meredith remarked, “I had to leave [after graduation] and moved to Boston”. Keeping the Miller’s away from Marquette, however, always proves to be a difficult task. “I’m an Army brat”, she went on, “so I’ve seen a lot of the country and a lot of the world. I moved away for that year, but I left my heart in Marquette… my boss realized that I didn’t love living in Boston, so I was able to leave and move back… and I absolutely love it here”.
Wanting to further explain why she ultimately decided to come back to Northern Michigan, Meredith had this to say: “my family is here, but that’s just the beginning of it… it’s difficult to have a dog in the city. A 65lb. Lab who loves the outdoors – that’s not gonna cut it in Boston. [Marquette] is a great place to be… you’re surrounded by nature… I can learn how to fly fish with my dad, cross-country ski with my mom, and snowshoe with my whole family. I can’t really get that anywhere else right now… I love hiking – you can generally do it with anyone – and you can do it almost every season… even out at camp, hiking with the dogs and exploring and seeing the beautiful area that we live in. I [also] started running, it’s been a fun pastime of mine now. I did the Marquette half-marathon in September! It was a blast – running on the Heritage Trail was great”. Meredith is able to continue her work for IBM in a completely remote capacity, adding her to a growing list of local community members currently working remotely in Marquette. “I’m more on the business and education side”, Meredith explained about her position with IBM, “ I love working remote. I don’t ever want to have to go into an office full time. Working from home is the best because of who I am and how I work. I don’t have to [commute] home, take my dog on a walk, and return to the office. [I] can just set up and get [my] work done.
Turning her attention back to Northern Michigan University, Meredith took some time to celebrate how the Cybersecurity Program prepared her for the real world, saying “they’re making sure you’re getting a solid education… it’s cybersecurity in the College of Business… a lot of Cybersecurity Programs are technical or business oriented but that’s not what companies actually need. Companies are looking for a combination of skills – and NMU presents a mixture of those things”. “Northern does that so well”, Doug added, “[they’re] preparing their students for their careers. It needs to be beneficial for both the student and the business. In cyber, you need people with technical skills – no doubt – but you have to have people with other skills coming into the team that can communicate risk and what that risk could mean to the people that are making funding or business decisions for the company”.
Keeping Our Communities Secure
“It’s really nice to have him close by to help with stuff related to work or even just for fun”, Meredith joked about her father’s current position as Director of the Cybersecurity program at Northern Michigan University. Doug’s extraordinarily passionate about keeping his communities – and his family, by extension – safe. “In the state of Michigan, there are 7000 unfilled jobs [in cybersecurity] alone. That number includes dedicated jobs and professionals. It doesn’t include small businesses or companies that just need help with security or IT functions”, he continued”, That’s the part that scares me”. Part of Doug’s mission as Director for the program is to strengthen the existing pool of “cyber defenders” here in the Marquette & the Upper Michigan area, while also attracting incredible, budding talent to the program at NMU. “The great small-town feel and ‘make it happen’ & ‘can do’ attitudes of Yoopers… wanting to understand how things work, and wanting to tinker with things, that’s what makes a great cyber defender”.
Explaining a bit more of how exactly how he landed in his current position, Doug detailed some of the past work he’s done for the Army: “the Army was kind enough to send me to the Naval Postgraduate School for a Master of Science Degree in Computer Modeling and Simulation, so that’s my academic background in the cyber/computer science world. I was fortunate enough to have a number of technically-oriented jobs in the Army and feel very comfortable around a range of technologies. My job while [stationed] in [Norway] was to coordinate technology programs between US Government research facilities and their Norwegian counterparts. I did that same job in the United Kingdom after I retired”. Rounding out his ridiculously impressive resume, he added that he did “some consulting work (post-Army) on an advanced flight controls research program before being hired into my current position”.
Speaking on the UPCI (Upper Peninsula Cybersecurity Institute) facility at NMU, Doug made a point to say that “NMU has taken a phenomenally innovative approach to cybersecurity training. The combination of the academic programs in the College of Business and the certification options from the UPCI, NMU is really able to offer a solution for any student who is looking to enter into this career field”. He also added that “being centrally located in the U.P. also helps us in our mission to get out to the rural areas and spread the ‘gospel of cyber’”. We were actually able to catch Doug, Pam and Meredith Miller recently volunteering their time during ‘Cyber Day’ at NMU, which saw hundreds of area High School students participating in hands-on computer coding, programming & cybersecurity training. Programs like this, and many more, make meaningful impacts on the larger communities and help to keep the coming generations up to date on the importance of maintaining safety online. During our chat, Doug even briefly touched on a program involving the education of senior citizens on cybersecurity, something that’s growing more and more necessary in the modern age of digital communication, especially so during the last few years. Doug also credits the work from Innovate Marquette SmartZone and similar organizations for the support they regularly lend to tech start-ups and small businesses. “This is really helping to foster new tech companies in the Marquette area and help us keep our young amazing talent here in the U.P.”.
Like we mentioned earlier… whether you’re simply scrolling Facebook at the end of a long day, or even when you’re purchasing some new clothing to try on online, cybersecurity matters in your day-to-day life. If you’d like to play an even larger role in your online security in our frenzied digital age, or if you’d like to learn more about cybersecurity in general, we recommend getting in touch with the UPCI and seeing what kind of differences you can make in your communities. Overall – it’s clear to see- the Miller’s are on a mission here in Marquette. They’ve taken immeasurable steps towards bettering the day-to-day lives of their neighbors throughout their travels, but especially here in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula – in cybersecurity, out in the woods, and even in your home.
The Miller’s have Made it Marquette.