Megan Mineiro: 3rd Year Global Studies and Middle East Studies Double Major
Megan might be one of the most thoughtful speakers I’ve ever encountered. Rarely does she stutter, or think too long before answering. You can tell that her words are carefully chosen, but they sound completely natural when they spill out in her picturesque, grammatically faultless phrases. During our talk, her straight and unwavering posture gave away little of the interworkings of her mental mechanisms. So when I asked Megan what advice she would give to her freshman self, I was pleasantly surprised at her uncharacteristic pause and furrowed brow:
“You can always write more… But then again not. There’s only so many hours in a day.”
Megan is an aspiring journalist- but after her three impactful years working at the Daily Nexus, it feels a little ridiculous to use the word aspiring. Everything about her mannerisms makes sense in the context of her work, rising from eager staff writer, to News Editor, and finally to Editor in Chief. Even though she is just a third year student, in speaking to her you get a sense of the professionalism and observant intellect you would expect to see in a veteran reporter. Megan knows her stuff, and when she doesn’t, she’s careful to admit that she is simply speculating. She sounded like someone who had been in the position of interviewer many times before and knew exactly what to expect, even if it felt a little awkward to have her role reversed. Behind her exceptional accomplishments and is a tale of growth and discovery that any incoming student should strive to emulate.
“I don’t usually like to talk about myself,” she squeamishly admitted. But for the purposes of this project, I needed to get out of this incredible young woman her story of making college her own- even if it meant getting an expertly unbiased professional to loosen up just a little.
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For Megan, college wasn’t so much about the common experience of figuring out exactly what she wanted to do as it was about chasing down her long-held professional goals with tenacity and vigor. She told me she’d wanted to be a journalist well before coming to UCSB, or even thinking about attending university for that matter. Her love of stories, and belief in their power to move people developed during a childhood spent shuffling between new places every few years.
“I’ve lived all across the country,” Megan explains, “there’s no particular place that I call home.”
From birth through to her first year in college, Megan moved with her family about every three years to some new corner of the U.S. This included stints in Tennessee, Arizona, Colorado, and most recently a return to her birth-state of California. Her unusual background moving so much caused a lot of upheavals in her personal relationships; changing hometowns so often makes it hard to develop long-term friendships. Though she is extremely close with her family, she says that it was really difficult to remain close to a lot of her friends when she would up and leave every few years. It was hard, but for all of the isolation such traveling could bring, it also brought Megan the incredible experience of being connected to a huge number of diverse communities by the time she was a young adult.
Tennessee and California can seem like foreign worlds to someone who has only been to one or the other. But Megan learned early on that the world is not as black and white as many would make it out to be. The characters and culture of a place derives from the aggregated stories of the people who make it what it is. Exposure to many different cities taught Megan to not only see the forest through the trees, but also to appreciate the beauty in how each single tree played a role in its surroundings.
The different people she met and unique communities she belonged to sparked in her a fascination with storytelling, and understanding the value of each individual’s unique voice. In a way, she was a journalist before she was a journalist, learning to observe and analyze the various ways folks around her lived their lives in comparison to one another. Since she was young, reading and writing were constant companions in the face of frequent transplantations to new places. Combined with her love of observation of the goings-on around her, journalism felt a natural outlet for her interest.
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In high school this culminated in a budding career in writing. On top of her AP classes, sports teams, and club memberships, Megan began working with the school paper, eventually reaching an editorial position. By the time she was considering which colleges to attend, Megan knew that she wanted to pursue journalism seriously.
Upon acceptance to UCSB, her enthusiasm was dampened by the fact that the school lacks a formal journalism track. Many to most schools around the country offer some sort of major or curriculum in journalism, and many great journalists have emerged from their storied halls. This might have pushed Megan away from her dream, if she was not the resourceful person she is. When she visited the campus her senior year, she had heard about the Daily Nexus and was curious to see what kind of operation it really was. As soon as she poked her head into the chaotic, bustling offices of the Nexus right under Storke Tower, her fears about missing out on training in journalism melted away.
“My future editor, who I shook hands with that day, and later became close friends with and worked under, had been teargassed the night before. That was an interesting background that I was unaware of at the time.”
She remembers the staff being incredibly busy, and a little frazzled. Unbeknownst to her, the Nexus team was engaged with reporting on the Deltopia riots that had occurred less than 24 hours prior to her visit.
The energy of the newsroom was palpable. Megan decided to attend UCSB, and within her first week of freshman year began working as a staff writer at the Nexus.
Academically, Megan decided that majoring in communications would be the closest thing to studying journalism. Coming into freshman year Megan had a plan to steer her courses towards the media side of the major in order to piece together a makeshift curriculum about topics in journalism. She also decided to pursue a second major in Middle East studies after taking a fascinating class in the department during her Fall quarter. As a devoted Christian, Megan wanted to couple her biblical knowledge with an interest in how religious conflicts were affecting the dynamics of the region in the modern day.
But by the end of her freshman year Megan just wasn’t as excited about communications as she was about the issues she was studying in the middle east. Furthermore, she didn’t think she was cut out for the type of evaluation system the communications major relied on: “I was much more of a writer than a test-taker,” she told me. She decided to replace communications with global studies, a major she heard great things about, and one which she knew would give her a broad lens with which to analyze her areas of interest. But as much as she loved her studies, Megan’s true heart was at the Nexus, where she was gaining steam fast.
That first year Megan reported on some very important stories, including a sit down interview with the father of one of the victims of the infamous Isla Vista shootings. These experiences were powerful; Megan told me it was hard not to break down in tears listening to his story. But learning how to be professional while interviewing is imperative for journalists, and even in the toughest of situations Megan found ways to grow. She also recalled a story she wrote on neuroscientists at UC Berkeley and UCSB which forced her to learn a ton about a field she knew nothing about. In moments like those Megan’s love of learning new and unfamiliar things allowed her to relish in the chance to report out of her comfort zone. A childhood spent navigating unfamiliar situations bred in Megan the ability and desire to be comfortable in uncomfortable settings. At the Nexus, Megan’s deep love of exploration, criticism and analysis found a home. Her passion for the craft made her good at what she did. And she was really, really good.
Within a month of being a staff writer, she was asked to fill a newly vacant position as assistant news editor. Initially she wasn’t planning on taking on any editorial roles, but when the request came she found that she was excited at the opportunity. By the end of her first year, Megan was again tapped to take on more responsibility as the head news editor. Finally, during the Spring quarter of her sophomore year, Megan took over the reins of the entire publication as editor in chief of the paper. At the time I interviewed Megan, she was in the process of handing down the position to someone else after holding it for nearly a year.
When I asked her if she ever regretted not taking a formal journalism major in college, she didn’t miss a single beat: “No. I feel that I’ve learned exponentially more at the Daily Nexus than I would have in a journalism program. Sometimes people come out of journalism programs a little stifled because they’ve been learning in a classroom and not working in the field.”
Megan proceeded to regale me with stories about how working with the Nexus made her a better student, a better professional, and even a better person. In the classroom, working as a student journalist taught her to attend to information she would normally look over due to her own individual bias. Talking and debating with the knowledgeable writers at the Nexus made Megan realize there is always more to be learned about an issue, and listening often yields better results than speaking out. But when she does arrive at genuine disagreements, in class or in life, having the experience of working through professional differences of opinions respectfully and productively with her staff has been given her an invaluable advantage:
“I think we carry that into our classroom experience. There’s been times where we’ve had really intense but respectful debate, and that’s really fantastic to have that in your work environment with people you consider coworkers, classmates, and even close friends. It’s definitely helped me grow exponentially as a student and benefit a lot more from the course material that I might not have considered in such depth had I not been in that more dynamic environment.”
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Megan’s professional and academic life enmeshed as she discussed issues of U.S politics in the Middle East with members of her staff, while learning about it in her coursework. The synthesis between the two led to an incredibly well-developed perspective on the dynamics of the region and landed Megan a spot in an international diplomacy program in Israel and Jordan where she plans to study abroad.
Her scholarship also benefitted from the enormous time constraints placed upon her as head of the paper while being a full time student. Often times Megan found herself in class all day, meetings all evening, and finally writing papers or stories late into the night so they could be turned in by their deadline the following day. As tough as this was, learning to balance her academics while running the Nexus made Megan an expert in hitting those deadlines by whatever means possible.
“The organizational skills, the administrative skills, and the foresight that you attain working at a publication definitely contributed to my success academically here. The ability to work under a deadline is invaluable as a student, and I’ve gotten double the experience that the average student gets because I’ve been doing that in my courses and also every day at work. So I can crank out a last minute paper like nobody’s business.”
This feat, she notes with a smile, is hugely valuable, but also a little dangerous. To be sure, there were times when all-nighters and sleepy mornings led to errors in her work at the Nexus, and also in her academics. Megan says she was a perfectionist in high school; in addition to wanting to be the best student possible, she used to organize her toys by color when she was a little girl. But in college she slowly came to realize that there is more value in learning to grow from mistakes than agonizing over the inability to achieve perfection. As a leader in her organization, being able to admit to mistakes was imperative to gaining the trust of her staff, and upholding the reputation of the paper: “You cannot be a leader who pretends like they’ve got it right all the time. Admitting mistakes is something I’ve come to be ok with, and even relish. You learn from your mistakes and you become a better person because of it. A better student, a better journalist.”
All of these lessons will undoubtedly help Megan when she leaves UCSB in search of bigger and better things. The possibilities are endless for those who make the most of their time at the Nexus, she says, and even having the huge alumni group to rely on for networking after college is a huge benefit. Of the many Nexus alumni who keep in close contact with the current staff, Megan has seen a ton of them go on to high profile positions in journalism and media for a variety of well-known organizations. What’s even more exciting to Megan is seeing the ones who did something a little bit different, a little out of the box, including a group of three alumni who went on to found an American newspaper in Prague which now has offices all over Europe. She hopes to follow their example and combine her interest in middle eastern politics and children’s well-being with journalism in a career that allows her to report on the ways that religious conflict displaces children and offsets their ability to get an education.
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For Megan, and everyone else at the Nexus, the enormous pressure of running such an organization is counterbalanced only by sheer, overwhelming passion. When things get really tough, it’s always easy to remind herself of why she does what she does:
“To collaborate with your peers and create something for your community is such a rewarding experience, especially when stories are going to have a long term impact on our community. Being able to be the one who tells them is such a privilege, even when that means staying up all night then going to your 8am. It doesn’t even matter because you know that that’s an experience that’s yours, and it’s a privilege to have it.”
Without the experiences she had at the Nexus, Megan might have never realized how much power lies latent in her lifelong fascination with the stories every person carries with them. In college Megan learned to turn her background in diversity into a strength. But with her sights set on graduating a year early in Summer 2017, Megan will enter the real world with all the confidence, competence, and passion required to make it as a top-notch journalist.
“People in your daily life have so much to share. How does policy, economics, religion all affect that one person living down the street? Everyone has a story to tell. I’m fascinated by that and think we could all learn something from each other’s stories.”