When Opportunity Knocks, Allegheny College Graduate Answers
Christopher Miller has always made the most of the opportunities presented to him. He just earned his bachelor’s degree from Allegheny College and will begin his career this summer at a New York City tech firm called Capgemini, a French multinational corporation that provides consulting, technology, professional and outsourcing services.
“I will be working as a technology consultant, assisting insurance companies to revamp or create new software to manage their clients. It’s a software engineering position,” he says.
In his pre-Allegheny life, Miller grew up in the urban neighborhood of Park Heights in Baltimore. As a sixth-grader, he was invited to attend the SEED School of Maryland, a college-preparatory, public boarding school where students from across the state receive a tuition-free education that prepares them for success in college and beyond. “Even then, I was interested in many different subjects like photography, Spanish, chess and much more,” Miller says.
He successfully completed seven years at the SEED School and, on the advice of a counselor, decided to apply to Allegheny, some 338 miles away from home.
“Going to Allegheny for me was terrifying at first. Coming from a city like Baltimore to a small town I’d never heard of with extreme weather conditions. I came to Allegheny on faith, faith that it would work out for me somehow,” Miller says.
And work out it did.
“When I arrived, I said that I would be the best person I could be,” he says. “I would try to treat people right, virtuous some may call it, and see what would happen. With that mindset, I have learned so much about the world, myself and how I want to live my life.”
“As a first-year student, Chris really stood out for his curiosity about and enthusiasm for mathematics,” says Tamara Lakins, chair of Allegheny’s Mathematics Department. “He connected in his second year with the professor of a pivotal required course for the math major, which led to his employment as an undergraduate summer research assistant to that professor, an impressive accomplishment for a second-year student. I was pleased that Chris was always comfortable stopping by my office to talk. He was eager to discuss with me his ideas for encouraging more students, and especially more students of color, to become math majors.”
Miller’s resume at Allegheny is impressive. He was a member of the Dimensions math club, the Chinese American Friendship Society, the Philosophy Club, the Chess Club, the Islamic Cultural Association, the Association for the Advancement of Black Culture, the African Student Association, Hillel, and the Nu Mu Chapter of Phi Beta Sigma. His major was in mathematics and his minor was in Chinese.
He spent the summer of 2018 in China, immersing himself in Mandarin and authored a blog he called “Chasing the Tea Leaves: My Journey East” about the experience.
“I was determined that I would improve my Chinese. The only way to do that was by going to China,” Miller says. “I remember the visits to the International Education Office and the long hypotheticals Lucinda Morgan (the director) and I would go over. I had never been out of the country. I had no idea where the money would come from, but it was like the whole campus used its entire strength to get me halfway around the world. I think that really captures the Allegheny experience — community.”
“When Chris returned, it was wonderful to see him enthusiastically sharing his study away experience in China with other students on campus at both formal gatherings and informal conversations,” recalls Morgan.
One of Miller’s biggest thrills at Allegheny was winning the 2019 Zingale Big Idea Competition, his third year entering the funding-request presentation contest that is open to all Allegheny and visiting college students. Miller teamed with Natalia Buczek, another senior at the time, to develop Aid Memoir, a communication app and website for patients with verbal and memory impairments and their caregivers. They each took home part of the $6,000 grand prize.
“I participated in the Big Idea Competition every year but my first year. The first time I participated, my team didn’t get past the preliminaries,” Miller recalls. “The next year, my team came in second with Munchyum, a food-delivery service. This year, I was close to not competing, but my partner, Natalia, convinced me otherwise. It meant a lot to me. It was the culmination of my Allegheny education, and it felt great to see what perseverance could accomplish.”
Miller says one of his most valued experiences at Allegheny was his community service. “Interacting with the City of Meadville and seeing how people live was really interesting. Being able to help others achieve their goals was very rewarding. It made me realize that education is not just what you learn in the classroom but also what you learn in life. Doing community service gives you the opportunity to gain wisdom from the people around you. In my education, community service has been like a spiritual teacher.
“I just want to tell those following me to Allegheny to be open to new ideas, experiences and people,” says Miller. “You never know who or what may change your life or how you may change someone else’s.”
Photo Credit: Derek Li