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Wednesday, May. 22, 2024

Crestview graduate travels the world

CINDY WOOD/independent feature writer

Crestview graduate Maegan Miller is shown above Lake Titicaca between Bolivia and Peru. (Maegan Miller photos)

Maegan Miller is intent on putting her stamp on the world, and more than a few stamps on her passport. The 2009 Crestview graduate, currently an honors student at The Ohio State University, is well-spoken, well-traveled and, well, not your typical 21-year-old.

Currently carrying a double major in urban and regional geography and political science, as well as two minors in critical and cultural theory and international development studies, the college junior faces a mountainous workload every day.

But her no-holds-barred drive to succeed is the motivation she needs to live, learn and, at times, laugh. “It’s just become my everyday life,” Miller said, adding that time management is always one of her biggest struggles. “Honestly, my friends and family regularly see me ripping my hair out because I didn’t start a paper until the last minute.

“But in the grand scheme of things, I try to remind myself that my stress is temporary and I know a lot of people have a lot of other concerns that, quite frankly, are just more important than mine,” she added. “I would be lying (though) if I said that stress didn’t get the best of me most of the time, and I am constantly trying new strategies for managing.”

Since coming to college, Miller has gained insight into the lives of a variety of people from many walks of life. From teaching English to newly arriving refugees and immigrants, to tutoring at a center for homeless families, to helping develop a network of allies for LGBTQ youth, Miller has witnessed first-hand the challenges and struggles facing many communities.

Additionally, her involvement as a mentor has also exposed her to issues such as racial and educational inequality, and she’s bound and determined to do something about it.

“I’ve volunteered in school districts where the majority of families are millionaires, to districts where everyone is middle class, to districts full of homeless shelters, and there are definitely racial elements to that,” Miller said. “Then again, I have also heard what it is like to be the only family on food stamps in an extremely wealthy neighborhood, so it isn’t always as clear cut as it seems.  Seeing so much inequality and differences especially in access to education has made me really conscious about wanting to do something with that.”

It’s difficult, she said, to not only recognize the issues, but to actually find solutions during an extremely challenging economic climate. Miller has decided that a career in city and regional planning would be the most effective way to address these issues.

“The problem is with planning in a recession that we are currently in. More importantly, it is really difficult to convince others that these issues are important and even harder to convince people that there are real, structural barriers that limit opportunities,” Miller said. “I see it as sort of a balancing act between wanting to make small changes in the lives of individuals or neighborhoods but also not losing sight of the bigger pictures. I’m certainly not going to change the world on my own, but I remain hopeful that we can make positive changes.”

Her desire to make a difference has pushed her to participate in campus protests demanding more transparent and democratic decision-making, as well as led her to New York City, where she took part in the Occupy Wall Street protest movement.  Miller has also traveled to Bolivia and Indonesia for school-sponsored international development trips. She participated in numerous classes in Bolivia, and also did field research, and met with politicians, diplomats and ambassadors. While in Indonesia, Miller was able to meet with local business leaders and non-government organizations as well.

Maegan Miller in front of Borobudour Temple on the island of Java, Indonesia.

Staying in dorms on campus at a university in the country, Miller’s experienced an “aha” moment as she looked down into the valley below her dorms.

“Indonesia is usually characterized as one of the most rapidly economically developing and industrializing countries,” she said. “That’s really nice in the numbers and on paper, but certainly not everyone there is benefiting from these things.”
Surrounded by billboards advertising familiar American brands in an area known as a pinnacle of development and progress, Miller was struck by the irony of it all.

“Down the hill in this little valley is a bunch of shacks where people have used these billboards to make their houses,” she said. “So these billboards that we see as progress are actually sheltering people in their homes. That to me was very symbolic of what you see on paper is very rarely what is actually happening in real life. Too often, we get caught up in these things and miss people’s actual experiences.”

In her young life, Miller has already experienced more than many people will in a lifetime, but she’s intent on making the most of the opportunities she’s been given by volunteering, mentoring and giving back. She’s also bringing awareness to issues through her work as a section editor for The Pulse, a progressive OSU student newspaper.

“I do all of the editing for the section about issues of gender, race and sexuality, and the relationship between all of those things as it pertains to politics, education and general experiences,” Miller said.

For the coming summer, Miller will be attending the nationally competitive Public Policy and International Affairs Junior Summer Institute at the University of Michigan. While at Michigan, Miller will undertake graduate level course work in political science, economics, and statistics as well as engage in various networking events. Upon being accepted into the program, Miller received a large financial scholarship to fund her graduate studies in Public Policy.

Miller is set to graduate next year from OSU, and while she’s not exactly sure where she will end up, it’s fairly certain this civic-minded young woman will make an impact, wherever she lands.

“I want to go into city and regional planning,” Miller said, adding that she also has interest in becoming a professor.
She knows it won’t come easy in a challenging job market, but she’s more than willing to pack her bags if need be, adding that she’s interested in working for an urban development organization, research center, or for a nonprofit group.

POSTED: 05/30/12 at 5:44 am. FILED UNDER: News