When Ryan Miller arrived on the Forty Acres to pursue a degree he was shocked to find discrimination towards the gay community, but the experience inspired him to push for change and now he’s taking his passion for advancing social justice to Harvard University.
The 2007 journalism graduate and Division of Diversity and Community Engagement staff member received a scholarship to pursue a master’s degree in higher education administration at the Harvard Graduate School of Education this fall.
He was one of 27 students chosen this year to receive a scholarship from the Point Foundation, the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender scholarship foundation.
The road to Harvard wasn’t easy for Miller, who grew up in Round Rock, a community he describes as conservative.
Miller said he knew he was gay around middle school but waited until he was 14 and in high school to come out to family and friends.
“I felt (my parents) would be supportive because I knew they were accepting of different kinds of people but it was still difficult to not be out and living a lie since everyone is assumed to be heterosexual. I’m so glad I told them early,” he said.
While his parents were accepting, outside of his immediate family Miller faced some obstacles.
“I’ve had issues with friends and extended family members,” he said. “My best friend stopped talking to me when I let him know.”
Despite dealing with name-calling and rumors in high school Miller went on to serve as student body president and graduated in the top two percent of his class and was excited to move on to the university where he thought he would find a more accepting group of peers. Miller soon realized it wasn’t as open and accepting as he thought.
“It was a shock to me,” he said. “Austin and UT are known to be more liberal and I was faced with more discrimination here than I was while I was growing up.”