Alumni Spotlight: Trish P. Miller, MBA, MPH


Trish-Miller.jpg Name: Trish P. Miller
Department & Class Year:
Behavioral Sciences and Health Education, 2017
Title: CEO
Employer: SwemKids and the Atlanta Swim School
Hometown: Chesapeake, Virginia
Current town: Atlanta, Georgia


Can you tell us about the path that brought you to working in your current position?

Though I grew up near the oceanfront, swimming was not a part of our family. Culturally it just wasn’t something that we did and as a result I never learned how to swim.

When I was 19 years old I went on Spring Break with my friends and once they learned that I didn’t know how to swim they agreed to teach me. After about 15 minutes of lessons, I thought I was ready for the deep end - I was wrong. I jumped in, panicked and almost drowned. Thankfully my friends were close to the pool edge and were able to jump in and rescue me. That experience stayed with me for decades. It took me years to get back in the water and conquer that retching fear that I now had of the water.

As my public health career progressed, I became more aware that my experience in the water was not unique. I learned that nearly 70% of Black children did not know how to swim and that as a result, middle school aged Black children drown ten times more than white children. This inspired me to want to do something about it, so I left my full-time career with the CDC Foundation to pursue this purposeful work. Since 2019, we have been able to introduce over 475 youth and adults to the freedom of swimming.

What is a typical work day like for you ?

This is the most rewarding work that I have ever done. My day (and night!) consists of working with public school systems, cities, counties, community organizations and corporations to recruit youth and sponsor swimming instruction and water safety programming for communities that need it the most. We currently give swimming instruction on the weekends, so I literally work 7 days a week - but I love each minute!

What types of skills do you think are important to being successful in your career? How did Rollins help to prepare you?

We do mission work. Each time we step into the pool to introduce a child or an adult to the freedom of swimming we have to recognize and honor the cultural and historical events that have contributed to the attitudes and opinions that many feel about the water.

My Rollins experience was critical in helping me to understand the tainted background and trauma that many Black families have experienced surrounding the water, and gave me the tools to create programming to help them to overcome it.

On days you feel the most accomplished at work - what did you do that day ?

I feel so blessed that I get to do something that I absolutely love. I still get misty eyed each time I walk around the pool and see a once fearful child or adult conquer their fear and make their first leap into the deep end; or when they build the endurance to complete their first lap. We celebrate each and every first lap and our objective is to help as many people as we can achieve their goals in the water. With each splash we are contributing to a more and more diverse pipeline of swimmers and doing our part to introduce the world to the freedom and spirituality of the water.

How has the Covid-19 pandemic impacted your work (if at all)?

Prior to COVID-19 the majority of operations and partnerships were with schools and local pools, and needless to say, both were closed in March. We were grateful when one of our donors called and offered his private outdoor pool in June so that we could resume giving swimming lessons in a safe manner. Since the summer, we have still been able to continue swimming instruction and are now providing youth and adult lessons indoors at Agnes Scott College.

What advice do you have for those who are interested in working in a similar position/career path as you?

You only get one life to live, so do what you love! Being a business owner is likely the hardest, but most rewarding thing I have ever done, but if given the chance, I would make the same choice again.

More broadly, what advice do you have for current students looking to pursue public health careers?

Public health is all about prevention and I would encourage public health students to be open to creative ways to prevent many of the situations that affect our communities. My particular method to decrease drowning prevention was to open a swim school, but there are tons of ways that our public health training can make a positive difference.

How has your work changed your perception of public health work (if at all)?

My work hasn’t changed my perceptions of public health, but it certainly has enabled me to share more broadly why swimming is a life skill and its importance for everyone.


Would you like to connect with Trish? You can find her on LinkedIn and learn more about her work at