By Abby Weingarten
Ky Miller graduated from New College on Friday alongside the class of 2021, with ambitions to build a career in equitable conservation and sustainability. As a Princeton in Latin America (PiLA) fellow, Miller now has the resources to fully realize her vision post-graduation.
“My goal is to work in partnership with rural and indigenous communities in Latin America (particularly Central America) to conserve ecologically critical and sensitive landscapes—while protecting and advocating for their right to stewardship of ancestral landscapes,” said Miller, who pursued a double area of concentration in environmental studies and anthropology at New College.
The PiLA program partners with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and multilateral organizations to place qualified college graduates like Miller in yearlong service fellowships. The fellows work with nonprofit, public service, humanitarian and government organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean. Since 2003, PiLA has placed nearly 400 fellows with partners in 20 countries throughout the region.
“I saw PiLA’s partnerships with conservation organizations in Guatemala, Costa Rica and Colombia as a fantastic opportunity to get a foothold in the field, while also applying my research skills and Spanish-language education,” Miller said. “This fellowship will allow me to deepen and expand my understanding of the challenges facing equitable conservation practices in Latin America in order to inform my future anthropological work.”
In the spring of 2022 (the program has been delayed due to COVID-19 concerns), Miller will be placed with an environmental NGO in Latin America, supporting sustainable development, biodiversity conservation and food security.
“Latin American countries have been subjected to extractivism, environmental degradation and environmental injustices for decades—the brunt of which has fallen upon lower-income rural and indigenous peoples,” Miller said. “It is critical to engage and collaborate with the people living within and around ecologically sensitive areas—to preserve the environment, facilitate sustainable development and embrace new approaches to addressing the ecological challenges (in particular, the climate crisis) facing Latin America and the globe.”
These issues have informed much of Miller’s academic work at New College. She has collaborated closely with mentor/thesis sponsor Erin Dean, Ph.D., an associate professor of anthropology. Miller has also served as co-vice president of green affairs for New College’s Council of Green Affairs, and was the online editor of the student-run newspaper, The Catalyst. She was one of the designated class of 2021 speakers at the commencement ceremony on Friday, along with her colleague, Catalyst editor-in-chief Anna Lynn Winfrey.
“Ky is an excellent student with a strong sense of social responsibility. Her interdisciplinary class work and thesis research demonstrate her sophisticated understanding of the benefits and challenges of community-based work,” Dean said. “The PiLA program is an amazing opportunity for Ky. It is highly competitive, and her selection is a testament not only to her academic skills but also to her impressive record of service, her self-motivation and her resilience.”
Dean’s mentorship, and the New College experience as a whole, helped prepare Miller for her future path.
“New College has provided me with the space to experiment and grow as both a person and as an academic. Throughout my studies, the emphasis on social justice, equity, interdisciplinary understanding and experimentation pushed me beyond my boundaries, while allowing me to develop an open, socially conscious perspective that I try to apply to every facet of my life,” Miller said. “Immersing myself in the life of the mind at New College and sharing it with my peers has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.”
Abby Weingarten is the senior editor in the Office of Communications & Marketing.