My experiences matter

By Hannah Dutcher ’24

Name: Jennifer Miranda
Hometown: Chicago
Grad Year: 2023
Major: Actuarial Science

Jennifer Miranda ‘23 has always been an academic force. After graduating as valedictorian of her high school, she was offered a full-tuition scholarship from two different institutions, including Wartburg. 

“Since about seventh grade, I’ve always been very serious about my education and my studies. In high school for my rhetorical writing class, I finished my work for most of the semester in the first week of class. I would be doing nothing, so my teacher made me fill out applications during class. She’s the one that encouraged me to apply to Wartburg because she had heard about the full-tuition scholarship. She also helped me set up my interview for the scholarship, and so I came to visit Wartburg.”

The McCaskey Orange Opportunity Scholarship is available to qualified students living in underserved areas of Chicago.

“I chose this college because it was a small school, and I love the fact that I can connect with the professors more. I understand that I don’t learn in a lecture hall with 150 students. The part that sold me the most was the fact that it was out of state as well and still offered me a full tuition scholarship.”

After starting her journey as a mathematics major, she was encouraged to join the actuarial science program.

Jennifer Miranda

“I chose mathematics because I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and mathematics is a broad area. My roommate was informed about the actuarial science program before she came to Wartburg, and she suggested I should switch to actuarial science because its working and analyzing numbers. That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to analyze something to make a difference somewhere.”

As a part of her studies at Wartburg, she was able to travel to Puerto Rico for the Society for Advancing Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) conference.

“That was an amazing experience. Never in my life did I think I would be able to go over there. It made me appreciate my life way more and value my experiences.”

SACNAS focuses on lifting up diversity in the STEM field.

“Since coming to Wartburg, so many doors have opened for me, and SACNAS was one of them. SACNAS was mostly for underrepresented ethnicity groups, and that’s why I really loved it. The culture there and everything was amazing. That conference was importing my culture into my studies, which is something I never thought of, and it made me realize how much communities need our people. If other people aren’t going to do it, we have to step up and do it for ourselves.”

She also recently attended the Nebraska Conference for Undergraduate Women in Mathematics in Lincoln, Neb.

“Going to this conference was very eye-opening to me when it came to research. I was able to see how much research other students are doing in mathematics. There is research that we can do and there’s a variety of ways that you can take it. It was amazing. All the sessions weren’t required to go to, but I wanted to go to all of them. I got a really great experience out of it, and I learned so much.”

As a first-generation college student, Miranda remains open and passionate about sharing her experience with others.

“I came from a different background than most people but look where I am now. Coming to Wartburg has made me appreciate my education so much more. Something that motivates me is remembering the fact that I’m in the same place as everyone around me. I don’t have the same family support as everyone else, and there are a lot of students like me who come from similar backgrounds. My experience matters, and it is valid, and the fact that I made it this far means something.”

Miranda has positively impacted the Wartburg community through her various leadership roles, including Black Student Union (BSU), Spanish and Latino Student Association (SALSA), and International Club (IClub).

“I’ve tried to keep myself busy and involved while here at Wartburg. I joined BSU because it felt like home to me. All my friends at Wartburg were talking about BSU as where minorities got together and created their own space where they felt safe. When I first went to the meeting, everybody was real. It gave me a space where I felt like I could be myself.”

Last year, she served as IClub vice president.

“My leadership positions helped me grow as a person. Specifically, with BSU, it was more of the fact that when I first joined, I was trying to educate other people. Because I grew up in a mostly African-American area, most of my education was based on African-Americans in America. My teachers made sure that each student got the rightful education that they deserved. When I came here that was my goal, to educate others.”

As a fourth year, she shares her advice to incoming and current college students.

“It’s a struggle, but it’s a struggle for the better. You have to remember that you are here to make something out of yourself. Community is everything. Build a community you feel safe in or at least join a community that you feel safe in and understand that people like advisers and professors and staff are here to help you, especially here at Wartburg. My math professors and advisers have never deterred me from continuing my major, even when I struggled, because it is a hard major.”

She reminds everyone to value different experiences and to know people for their stories.

“The people I grew up with tell each other our stories—do that here. You can say one of them outweighs the other, but the difference is, it’s not a competition. It’s the fact that you share your story and you feel more empathetic towards each other and you learn from others.”