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Featured: Miranda Maynard, Graduate Assistant

Miranda Maynard, graduate assistant for the Carl Vinson Institute of Government and the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach, sees service as part of being a responsible community member. Because her focus on fine art and photography is not typically associated with service-learning, she feels fortunate to be in a unique position at UGA—serving to enhance the impact of PSO communications through media.

What is your major/minor?
I’m currently a graduate student studying fine art, with a concentration in photography. I earned my bachelor’s in mass communications from the University of North Carolina, Asheville. My undergraduate studies were focused on commercial media.

What does service mean to you?
I think of service as part of being a responsible community member.

Why do you serve?
Having grown up in small towns and communities where people were often very involved in each other’s lives, I just think it’s an important thing to do and to make time for.

What made you want to get involved in service at UGA?
The graduate school offers a number of graduate assistantships that make attending UGA much more affordable, particularly from out of state. When I was offered this position with PSO, I was thrilled. PSO’s fundamental mission is really exciting to me, particularly the PSO units’ work with local governments. I’m a bit of a civics nerd, so when I started reading up on the Institute of Government and other PSO units I couldn’t get over what a perfect fit the position is. Also, I think that this is the first year that PSO has had a GRA from the school of art, and I think that the relationship between the Lamar Dodd School of Art and PSO has been strengthened as a result. I also believe this position was made possible by the photo area chair Michael Marshall, who believes strongly that service-learning should be a part of a photographic education. So I’m very grateful to him and to communications director Joycelyn Trigg for developing this position.

What service and leadership opportunities are you involved with at UGA?
I’ve only been here for a few months, so I haven’t become involved in much outside of my studies. But prior to moving to Athens, I co-founded a not-for-profit public darkroom space in Asheville. I also taught a digital photography class to kids, which was just about the most fun I’ve ever had! Witnessing such a positive response first-hand definitely made me realize that service-learning can apply to virtually any field.

What do you feel has been the greatest benefit of your service at UGA, within the community and in your personal life?
I feel like my service is more of a supporting role. I’m helping the people who share all the great things that PSO does communicate visually, and generally I’m helping to facilitate that side of the communications effort. So even though I’m not writing stories or organizing events, hopefully my work will make it easier for others in the Office of Communications to enhance what they already do so well.

Personally, I have to say that it’s a real treat to get to spend time outside of the School of Art. I absolutely love it over there. It’s a beautiful building full of really smart and exciting people, but I do feel privileged to get to see so many other parts of UGA. A few weeks ago, I was able to photograph a presentation given by students who had spent their summers working with local governments from around Georgia on downtown development projects. The work these students do is so fascinating and impressive, and I learned a lot of enlightening things about other little towns in Georgia as well. It’s exciting that I get to go to events like that as part of my job.

Why do you feel it is important for students to participate in public service and outreach? How do you benefit from it?
As an undergraduate, I went to a liberal arts university that placed a lot of emphasis on service-learning, and I participated in several service-learning events. So I’ve come to think of it as a fundamental part of any college education, because it broadens your horizons and develops critical thinking skills in a way that academics alone just can’t. I think it also helps to contextualize the enormous amounts of data that students ingest when they’re in school, either as undergraduate or graduate students.

What are your plans after graduation?
After graduation, I’d like to become a photography professor.

What is your favorite spot in Athens, at UGA, or in Georgia? Why?
I don’t have a favorite spot in Athens just yet, but my favorite spot in Georgia is definitely Tallulah Gorge. I get to drive through it sometimes on my way back to Asheville and I just love it!

What motivates or inspires you in life?
I’d have to say my parents are my biggest inspiration. They’re the hardest working people I know. And even though no parent wishes their child will choose to pursue a career in art, particularly during a recession, they’ve tried hard to understand my ambitions (and my weird conceptual work) and have been incredibly supportive. I feel very fortunate, and that’s a huge motivator.

What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?
In high school (and even now to some degree), I was incredibly soft spoken. My government teacher told me to speak up. He said that if I didn’t speak like I believed in what I was saying, no one else would believe in it either.

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