First-generation college student McKena Miyashiro, a native of Honolulu, Hawaii, came to the University of Portland, in Oregon, to study economics. She was drawn to the field for two reasons: she believed the quantitative and qualitative skills she would learn would make for a successful career, and studying economics would help her become better informed about the world. She explained, “Economics governs our society – it informs our decisions about how we should most effectively allocate our limited resources throughout society. Thus, being an economics major seemed like a natural choice to me in order to understand the mechanisms by which our society works.”
One of McKena’s favorite classes in college was Labor Economics with Professor Todd Easton, one of her favorite professors. In this class, she learned about the causes and consequences of rising income inequality in America, something she’s particularly interested in. She shared, “I have always had a strong interest in uplifting and protecting marginalized individuals in society, and this class opened my eyes to a world of potential policy options that may mitigate rising income inequality and improve the economic status for those at the bottom of the income distribution.”
In line with her dual goals, McKena would like to pursue a career in the consulting field after graduation, but she also has a strong desire to help others. “I would like to open a nonprofit college resource center for socioeconomically disadvantaged youth. Far too often, low-income students do not have the resources to help them navigate through the college application process. By opening up this resource center, I want to ultimately improve the college enrollment rate for these students, as I believe education is the key to reducing poverty and improving economic mobility for those at the bottom,” said McKena.
As graduation nears, McKena feels confident that she’s well prepared for the transition out of college. Since freshman year, she’s been focused on her goals and the future. She said, “My goal has been to ensure that I would have solid resume and job experience before leaving college. Luckily, I have been able to accomplish this goal during my time in college by holding multiple on-campus jobs, in addition to completing an internship with a market research company this past summer.”
McKena believes strongly in long-term planning as well as day-to-day organization, something she advises students just starting out to consider. She said, “My advice is to get a planner, make a calendar, and make to-do lists! I am a huge advocate of setting up a Google Calendar, so that you can look at your calendar on your computer, tablet, and phone. Getting organized ultimately allows you to stay on top of your work and creates a great work-life balance.”
On a more personal level, McKena shared that her motivation to succeed comes from her parents and the desire to be the first in her family to graduate from college. She concluded, “As a first-generation college student, I treat my education as a true privilege every day, demonstrated through my strong commitment to learning. My parents are such giving, wonderful human beings and have made a lot of sacrifices to get me to where I am today. When I graduate this May, it will not only be my degree; it will be a degree that I, along with my parents, have earned together.”