Desiree Miller is a professional athlete, former captain of the U.S. Women’s Wheelchair Basketball Team, three-time Parapan American gold medalist, and world champion. After competing in the 2012 London Paralympics, she competed again in Rio in 2016 — and came home with a gold medal.
The Monroe, Washington, native was born with a rare form of spina bifida, which limited her involvement in sports growing up. After discovering wheelchair basketball when she was 17, she competed at University of Alabama, where she majored in English. Then she came to the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater to complete a master’s degree in counseling.
“I fell in love with Whitewater almost immediately,” she said. “It’s small enough so you are noticed by teachers and not lost in the crowd, but big enough to have that campus vibe.
“I was close to my professors and classmates and always impressed by the caliber of faculty and staff, impressed by the programs I was studying and the ones my friends were studying.”
The athlete found a newly established women’s wheelchair basketball program that had yet to experience the success of the men’s program.
“I’m so proud of the dynasty and legacy of the team I played on,” she said. “I arrived when the program was in its infancy and left with three back-to-back championships. We put the women’s program on the map. It was extremely special.”
Miller returns to campus on April 22, 2017, to accept the Outstanding Recent Alumna Award as part of the university’s Founders Day celebration.
After graduating in 2014, Miller returned to spend nearly a year helping to coach the current team.
“I loved my time here,” she said. “That’s why I came back to live here.”
And recently Miller was excited to return to campus March 8-11 to see the men’s and women’s teams host and play in the national championships.
Miller is currently playing for the Dallas women’s club team and looking for a job in case management or intake at a clinic or hospital.
“I have a big passion for people and connecting with them. People always feel comfortable coming to me and talking — this degree allows me to continue my passion professionally.”
Miller lives in Arlington, Texas, with her partner, Abby Dunkin, and their bichon-shih tzu mix, Rio. But a part of her will always be a Warhawk.
“Whitewater always felt like home to me.”