By Steph Spector
When we say that Dana Miller has talked to a lot of Gotham students over the years, we mean a lot. And her advice to them has always been conscientious, charming, and imbued with yogic wisdom. That’s because Dana has worked at Gotham for over 20 years as dean of students, director of One-on-One services, and a teacher of Business Writing. As for that yogic wisdom? Dana balances out her school days by teaching vinyasa or “flow” yoga.
The born and bred Manhattanite always had a contemplative streak. After high school, Dana moved out of her parents’ apartment on the Upper West Side to study philosophy at Haverford College. “I’m not really big on quantifying things,” says Dana, which drew her to philosophy. “I liked the fact that there were no right answers.”
After graduating, Dana got a job writing copy for BBDO Advertising. So she went from pondering the essence of life to pondering the essence of the Visa card. One day Dana and two of her design partners created the flagship advertising for Frito Lay Sun Chips. The company flew them out to LA for three weeks, and as she watched their 15-second commercials come to life, the west coast bug bit Dana.
Not too long after the trip, Dana left BBDO with stars in her eyes and moved to LA to break in as a TV writer. (“I watched a lot of TV as a kid,” says Dana.) As an agent peddled her scripts, Dana supported herself by working a medley of jobs: bussing proms, serving beer to volleyball players on Malibu Beach, and stage managing the LA premiere of Prelude to a Kiss.
In her heart of hearts, Dana sensed that something wasn’t right. Then the ground beneath her feet shook. Literally and figuratively. Literally, because an earthquake rocked the city. Figuratively, because her checking account had $98 in it.
After three years of living in impermanence, Dana circled back to her roots, her stomping grounds of Manhattan. There, on West End Avenue, she spotted a flyer on a lamppost advertising Gotham classes.
“I called to register for a class and paid for it on four different credit cards,” says Dana. It was a Screenwriting class and Dana enjoyed it so much that she called the office when it ended just to gush about it. Her enthusiasm prompted Gotham’s co-founders to offer Dana a job, and the rest is history.
The philosopher in Dana isn’t big on declaring favorites. But what she really loves about Gotham after all these years is the fact that its mission remains the same. “It’s still about helping people tell their stories. And we’re very hands on. If the university is the equivalent of the corporation, then Gotham is the mom and pop shop. I like that.”
So if it’s Gotham-related advice you seek? Drop Dana a note at [email protected]. Or if you need to quiet your mind, pop into one of her hot vinyasa sessions, up for the taking at New York Yoga on the Upper East Side.