University of Wisconsin–Madison

One To Watch: Kate Miller

Kate drinking Mate (Traditional Uruguayan tea) at the estancia in Florida, Uruguay.
By Joshua Schwab

Position: Campus Payroll Specialist

Location: Office of Human Resources, 21 North Park Street

Educational Background: BA in Political Science and Russian from Grinnell College

Kate, tell me how you became the Campus Payroll Specialist working for Payroll Services?

Well… I haven’t always been a Wisconsin native. My husband and I transplanted from the east coast about 5 years ago. He had this great job working for Epic and I was looking to gain some experience. I knew that my long–term goals were to work in higher education, but I wasn’t sure where to begin. After a few unsuccessful applications, I got a job working for the Office of Human Resources — Administrative Services Unit (ASU).

In my first year with ASU, I took advantage of all the learning opportunities I could. I would attend workshops, trainings, and I had great colleagues that mentored me. I even had the opportunity to learn some of the payroll processing. I learned early in my tenure that I was interested in payroll. I’ve always loved data entry and problem solving, so payroll seemed like the perfect outlet. But payroll was only a portion of my job in ASU. About a year into my tenure, the Campus Payroll Specialist position opened. I applied, interviewed, and got the job. I was excited about the opportunity to be a part of the Payroll Services team because I could assist with payroll issues all day, every day. Plus, there’s plenty of data entry :).

What excites you most about working on the UW–Madison campus?

Madison is the “flagship” campus for University of Wisconsin system. It is a strong institution that has a strong mission, that I am proud to be a part of.

There are also a ton of different opportunities for people to get involved. For example, I have always been passionate about working with under privileged and underrepresented groups and supporting them through engagement, inclusion, and diversity initiatives. I get the opportunity to feed my passion as the OHR EID Committee Chair. A few things that we are doing right now include:

  • OHR EID Committee Article Discussions — Members of the OHR community come together to talk about an EID–related article. Our last discussion group hashed out generational differences and their effect on the workplace. Participants from a variety of generations had an opportunity to see their work environment from a different perspective and offer ways to improve inter-generational communication and collaboration. I am excited about sharing this initiative. I would encourage others to find out and get involved in their divisions EID initiatives.
  • OHR EID Sponsored Events — The EID Committee recognizes the importance of community building, especially on a college campus. This past winter, the committee hosted a “Cans for Coffee” event. We provided coffee to employees in exchange for donations to The Open Seat, an organization that collects food for UW–Madison students experiencing food insecurity. It was the perfect opportunity for OHR employees to mingle with one another while doing some good for the campus community.

EID is integral to the work that we do, it spreads across the organization and outside of the workplace. Change and progress happens this way.

What are you working on now?

OHR Payroll Services is engaged in a few different projects to help increase efficiency, processes, and consistency for the UW–Madison campus. This work really aligns with my personality — I am a “Gold” for those of you who know about True Colors.

One of our projects is the Division Payroll Certification Program. This program intended to train division payroll professionals to know how to perform payroll responsibilities. I am learning how to coach campus partners on understanding how to apply payroll knowledge and expertise. We are also hoping to grow this program into a program that department level payroll professionals can participate in too.

Is there any advice that you have for others in the HR profession?

Ask questions! Sometimes you must be vulnerable to not knowing. Questions lead to other questions you did not know you had. It also helps you to gain respect from co–workers.

Can you tell us something about you that we don’t already know?

I have a pretty “fluid” personality. I am very results-driven and focused at work, but more laid back and carefree at home.

I have a love of food. I love food trucks, local restaurants, farmers markets. Some of my favorite foods include Italian and Irish. I have this Irish cookbook that I try to make as many dishes as possible every March. #AllTheFoods.

I also love to travel and learn about cultures and values of people in other countries. One of my favorite places that I have traveled to is Uruguay. My husband and I recently explored the country, and we spent a few days at a cattle ranch. We rode horses, ate (the best) empanadas and asado, and lazed around in hammocks during the peak of the afternoon heat. The best part, though, was spending time with our Uruguayan hosts. They demonstrated what I liked most about the Uruguayan people: a relaxed nature and sense of perspective. Uruguay is so small that you can travel to Montevideo (the capital) in a matter of hours. And while Uruguayans love all the city has to offer, they also appreciate the quiet of the countryside, where they can step away from their daily routines. The countryside gives you the space to realize that not every decision is the be–all and end–all, and sometimes it is okay to take a step back and enjoy the moment.

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