Megan Brown — A tall second-year MFA student who enjoys salsa dancing, singing and has an arm tattoo of a fleur de lys design was chosen to be this year’s Convocation speaker. Brown said she was nominated for the position by a Mills alum who worked with her at the Writing Center after something Brown said in class caught the alum’s attention.
The day before Convocation, Brown said she would be talking about “growth and success and failure.” Her speech was written over the course of two days, then reworked and revised with the assistance of new Provost and Dean of Faculty Dr. Kimberly Phillips.
“This speech was really inspired by the color ‘green,’ the class color,” Brown said. “Not so much green as in envy, but green like growth and renewal and maturity. Once I started thinking about the color green, that’s when my speech really became inspired by my life.”
Brown based her speech off of her experiences in the Mills graduate program, which she believed other Mills students could relate to. She said the coursework she had done writing prose in the MFA English program “informed my writing process and helped me come up with content for the speech.”
Her MFA thesis will be a collection of short stories and bears the working title “What Is Taken From Us.” It explores themes of betrayal, loss, family conflicts, being an outsider and “young women at the precipice.” Much like with her Convocation speech, Brown discovered that her own life experiences, such as her relationship with her mother and sister, have informed her fiction-writing.
Brown said she was excited to speak at Holmgren Meadow since the event would bring the biggest audience she said she will ever have to address. She said she would like the Class of 2014 to keep “geographic options open and to just fight for everything they want but also be willing to compromise. [They] should be open, [they should] talk to people, and network the hell out of things. [And] to just be open to whatever comes your way.”
Brown did her undergraduate studies at the University of New Orleans in 1999 “right before the market crashed” — she witnessed the disillusionment that came with job searching. Taking her own advice of keeping her “geographic options open,” Brown lived in several locations, growing up in New Orleans, spending time in Washington, D.C., and then eventually moving to the Bay Area where she has been for the last eight years.
“Moving here and starting school again was a big step,” Brown said. “And I was happy to make it [to Mills College]. Lots of doors have opened for me” in terms of career options.
Not only did Brown need a change of scenery, she needed “a nudge, a containment and a program” for her writing, which she found with the MFA graduate program at Mills.
“I’m really drawn to the sense of community,” Brown said. “There is no one in any of my classes that I can’t walk up to, stand there and have a conversation with. I think Mills students are there for one another in a way that maybe doesn’t happen at larger state schools.”
Brown also noted the size, location, faculty, inclusivity, and the look of the campus as major reasons why she chose to go to Mills.
Brown currently works several days a week as a Fellow at the Mills Writing Center in Reinhardt Hall and encourages both graduate and undergraduate students to come if they need help with their speeches, papers, and other writing assignments. Brown occasionally writes for The Campanil as a food blogger and also runs a personal food blog called Mookie’s Food Odyssey.
She is set to graduate in May 2014 and hopes to become a teacher while still continuing to write prose and poetry.
You can read her full speech, which has been republished with permission, here.