A Conversation with Minerva Student Megan

Meet Megan, a student in the Class of 2021 | Jun, 11, 2018

Quick Facts

Name
Megan Cho

Hometown
Colorado, U.S.A.

Class
2021

Major
Business

Conversation

Why did you transfer to Minerva from a traditional campus environment?

For my first year of college, I attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) as a Global Studies major. My overall experience was positive, but I knew I was looking for something different. I remember sitting in a library at 11 p.m. during finals week, cramming poem titles and their year of publication into my head, when I really reconsidered what I wanted academically from my college experience. I’d often felt this disconnect between class material and real-world application, and I realized that throughout my entire educational career I had always been taught what to think, not how to think. When I learned that Minerva teaches concepts like critical thinking that can be transferred to a variety of contexts, prepares students for jobs that don’t even exist, and uses content as a means to an end (not an end in itself), the decision to transfer became strikingly clear.

In addition to the academic curriculum, I was also attracted to Minerva for the global city experiences. “4 years, 7 cities” was one of the first things that drew me to Minerva. I didn’t want to become trapped within a campus bubble — I wanted the opportunity to immerse in cities, interact with locals, absorb everything a culture has to offer, and ultimately learn to be a global citizen.

What major and concentrations do you intend to pursue?

I’m planning to pursue a double major in Business and Social Science. For concentrations, I’m planning on Brand Management and Designing Societies, respectively. I used to think I would pursue political science and go to law school. While that path isn’t totally out of the picture, my cornerstone (first-year) courses and exposure to the start-up world this past year led me to explore these fields I hadn’t considered as much before.

Tell us about a memorable experience you have had in one of your classes.

My favorite Foundation Year class was Complex Systems, which focuses on understanding and engaging with social systems through negotiation, debate, leadership, and ethical frameworks. Recently, we learned about the importance of finding common ground. We first discussed some current events with strong opposing sides and then looked for common ground that could lead to a mutually beneficial solution. This discussion was especially memorable because we were able to move past the closed-mindedness that often surround controversial topics and begin to foster real dialogue. I think this is especially pertinent given current political polarization that can prevent constructive conversations, and, consequently, progress toward potential solutions. It made me hopeful that finding common ground isn’t an ideological fantasy and that, with mutual effort, we can continue to see more of these productive discussions around the issues we face today.

Can you share what you did for your final project?

For my final project, my group focused on improving the homeless shelter experience for San Francisco youth aged eight to 18. I was initially interested in the topic because homelessness is a very visible and growing concern in the city, and I wanted to know more about how I could help. We collaborated mainly with St. Anthony’s Homeless Shelter that has been serving the local homeless population for over six decades. After volunteering multiple times and interviewing the coordinators, we found that one of the greatest problems facing homeless youth is trauma from overall lifestyle instability and there weren’t many programs in place to specifically address this. Using the habits of mind and foundational concepts (HCs) we learned in the past year, we were able to problem-solve by identifying the current state and the goal state for homeless youth, and, then, systematically think through a solution to bridge that gap. Our solution was a written proposal for a music therapy program directed towards St. Anthony’s including a comprehensive analysis of the problem and an implementation plan. From our research, we induced that implementing our program would create a sense of belonging and reduce trauma for homeless youth in shelters, which could help break the often cyclical nature of homelessness.

Outside of academics, what are some of your interests?

I’ve always been drawn to artistic hobbies like sketching or painting. Over the years, that interest gravitated toward 3D work, and I fell in love with the art of ceramics in high school. I love the process of molding things with my hands, constructing something new, and pushing the boundaries of what I can create. I really delved into this interest last summer when I spent a couple weeks learning from a renowned ceramic potter in South Korea. I also grew up taking music lessons and have played the flute for a number of years. I’ve carried that hobby throughout college and have had some fun opportunities to perform at Minerva events or just have jam sessions with my musically-talented peers. More currently, I really enjoy reading and writing periodically for my personal blog.

What was your favorite Minerva event or experience this past year?

My favorite Minerva event was the half marathon around the coast of San Francisco. For Elevation (our second-semester kick-off weekend), the Student Experience team planned an incredible half marathon that started at Ocean Beach and ended in front of the Ferry Building. After an early morning breakfast on the beach, we started running (or walking!) north toward the Golden Gate Bridge. There were fun challenges along the way that were all thoughtfully put-together by Minerva staff and students. I loved getting to walk around the entire border of San Francisco while enjoying the city’s breathtaking views with my classmates. It reminded me how lucky I am to be a part of a community that organizes such special and meaningful events.

My favorite non-Minerva event was getting to travel to Austin, Texas for the 2018 South by Southwest education (SXSW EDU) conference, where 16 classmates and I hosted a three-hour interactive session on active learning. I learned so much from attending the conference, met some great people, and got to explore Austin with my close friends. It was an amazing opportunity that I’m very grateful for and an experience that helped me build a lot of important skills, such as adaptability, networking, and project management, that are especially relevant to my internship this summer.

Speaking of summer, how are you going to spend your first one at Minerva?

This summer, I’ll be working in London as an intern for EdTechXGlobal, which is a company that puts on some of the largest education technology conferences in Europe, Africa, and Asia. I will be working mainly on their Europe conference through campaign development, social media management, and event operations coordination to cultivate a global community around 21st century education. I’m really excited for this opportunity because I recently got more interested in the field of EdTech while studying in San Francisco. I was exposed to many different startups working in the industry and became passionate about using technology in a way that increases both quality and opportunity in education.

What do you aspire to do when you graduate?

I’ve always been interested in the field of education because I see it as one of the most unique and personal ways we can help people reach their full potential. This past semester, I was really inspired by a “What I’ve Learned” (a weekly opportunity for Minerva students to hear from various professionals about their careers and personal experiences) with a product designer from Khan Academy. She shared letters from students who explained how accessible, self-paced education through Khan Academy gave them an unparalleled opportunity to learn and changed the course of their life. Living close to San Francisco’s tech scene, I’ve seen how technology is constantly opening up new possibilities in various sectors. If used effectively in conjunction with education, I see a lot of potential for opening up unprecedented learning opportunities and improving access to education for students globally. Although I’m not sure the exact role I’d like to hold, I aspire to be a part of “changing the narrative” for students through education and hope to continue exploring career possibilities throughout my time at Minerva.

What’s your favorite way to spend a free hour?

I think it’s really important to make time for people, so I love spending time with friends or catching up with people I haven’t talked to in a while. I also love reading and always have a book I can pick up when I have down time. I’m a huge fan of productivity, business, or autobiographical books that challenge the lens I see things through. I’m currently reading Zero to One by Peter Thiel and My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor — I would highly recommend both!

What has been a favorite moment of yours in San Francisco?

There have been so many moments that I will cherish from my first year, but I will always remember the last day of Foundation Week (Minerva’s orientation week for first-year students). To commemorate the end of that first week and celebrate the start of the school year, the staff planned for my entire class to watch the sunset together at Ocean Beach. The setting sun marked the beginning of what would become some of the best, most intense, and growth-oriented months of my life. But all I knew at that moment was that everything was fresh and exciting, the city lay waiting to be explored, and I already felt at home with all my classmates from around the world. It’s a memory that contains a lot of laughter and nostalgia, coated in the golden California sun.

What do you enjoy most about being a part of the Minerva community?

One thing I didn’t expect would have such a great impact on my first year experience was the Minerva community itself. In most larger institutions, I’ve found that you tend to gravitate toward students who are very similar to you (in terms of interests, background, ethnicity, etc.) Thus, even though the school itself might be diverse, your internal community can become very homogenous. However, at Minerva, the small student body and cohort structure create a community that is truly diverse and very tight-knit. Just in the past two semesters, I’ve been exposed to so many new perspectives and ideas that have helped me broaden my horizon; I’m more aware of political situations around the world because they have personally affected my classmates, I’ve been introduced to topics, like cryptocurrency, that were once foreign to me, and I’ve gained a better understanding of how to be a global citizen. Minerva’s community of students, staff, and faculty have not only elevated my perspective of the world, they have motivated me to become better both personally and professionally. I’ve learned so much just from interacting with the people around me and have gained an invaluable, lifelong network of support.

What would you tell another student who is considering Minerva?

Choosing a college can be difficult, especially if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. I would say the most important thing is to consider what kind of experience you want to have. Minerva is definitely a unique college experience with its own set of pros and cons. However, I do think that immersing in seven different cities around the world, cultivating a lifelong network, and learning from a curriculum based in the science of learning is difficult to find in any other college experience. Transferring to Minerva has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and if you feel that Minerva is the right choice for you, I would wholeheartedly recommend it.


If you were inspired by Megan's story and are seeking a college experience that will teach you valuable pragmatic skills that will enable you to change the world, apply to join Minerva today.