Making a difference, one word at a time
Forty-five minutes from Clemson near the Georgia state line sits Mountain Rest, South Carolina, the small community Miriam McEwen calls home. While the rural town didn’t offer her a childhood filled with skyscrapers and bustling crowds, it did give her the opportunity to grow up near the Chattooga River. An integral part of her upbringing, McEwen’s deep appreciation for the river and its history led her to a position with the Chattooga Conservancy, and after Friday’s graduation ceremony she will be the submissions manager for its magazine, The Chattooga Quarterly.
McEwen has been with the Conservancy since June working alongside executive director Nicole Hayler and program associate and Clemson alumnae Buzz Williams. She is responsible for reviewing content sent to the magazine for consideration and writes book reviews on environmentally inclined literature or new scientific text
“I relish the chance to give back to my community and the Conservancy through my particular skills,” said McEwen. “As for what’s beyond that, I’m looking at earning my MFA and will begin applying in early spring. For me I think it’s an obvious step.”
The English major has always had a love for writing and reading.
“Writing feels like an essential part of my lived experience. It’s a place I can go where I’m free from the perceptions folks have of me, good or otherwise,” said McEwen. “So I can sit and write and have the confidence to know my voice. And Clemson English has given me some of the best mentors of my life. Education and encouragement go hand-in-hand in that department. It’s just a special environment, full of big ideas and creativity.”
Taking an active role within the department, McEwen participated in numerous events and even spearheaded communications for Clemson’s Literary Festival as a student director.
“I grew to love it and was there for three consecutive years,” said McEwen. “It was a great experience to engage with professional authors and gain insight into how publications work.”
She worked closely with festival co-directors to produce the three-day event that brings together campus and community members for workshops and readings with internationally known authors like Pulitzer Prize-winners Viet Thanh Nguyen and Charles Simic.
“I really can hardly imagine running the festival without her. There was nothing Miriam wouldn’t do,” said John Pursley, a lecturer in the English department and co-director of the festival. “From writing copy and contacting writers to phoning local officials and hotels, she never once wavered from the duty at hand.”
McEwen also received one of four Undergraduate Creative Writing awards and read at Clemson’s 2016 Writers’ Harvest fundraiser and Fusion Formal.
“I was really excited about the Writers’ Harvest, it was the first event where my work was being showcased. I love that it helped the community and that I was able to read my work alongside other authors and faculty from the English department,” said McEwen.
McEwen’s academic achievements earned her a spot in Sigma Tau Delta, the English honors society, and Delta Alpha Pi, an honor society that recognizes top-ranking students with disabilities.
In 2016, she became president of Delta Alpha Pi.
“I’m really passionate about my work with disability rights and was excited to have the opportunity to share a different narrative about disabilities through the many talks I’d give about being a disabled student,” said McEwen. “Hopefully, I was able to open some doors and can continue to do so for people who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity by talking about it.”
For McEwen, college was the chance to better herself and elevate her position in life. She created opportunities, strived to share her story with others through written word and found her voice so that she could make a difference.
“I wanted to make sure I took full advantage of my time at Clemson and I think I did. I made lifelong friends, made an impact and am graduating with honors. It mattered to myself and my family that I succeed on my own terms at college, and I’ve been able to do that thanks to Clemson,” said McEwen.
“I mean it’s college; you gotta work hard, but the reward is pretty great.”