Samantha Friedman

Miami University’s Latino Community Coordinator, Megan Taylor Kuykendoll, is settling into her new role during her second year, continuing her work to build bridges between Miami’s campus and the Latino community through service and events.

Kuykendoll was hired in August 2007 as Miami’s first Latino community coordinator, after she graduated from Miami in May 2007, where she majored in Spanish and minored in Latin American Studies. Megan lives in Oxford with her husband, who is also a Miami graduate.

According to Kuykendoll, her job involves creating ties between Miami’s students and the Latino community in Butler Country and Cincinnati.

“So much of my work is based off of relationships,” Kuykendoll said.

Monica Paulette Ways, director of the office of community engagement and service, said Kuykendoll’s main focus is partnerships with Latino communities.

She also said no one has total ownership of a certain project. Kuykendoll said there is always a lot of collaboration, particularly with the Center for American and World Cultres (CAWC) and the Office of Community Service and Engagement.

“It’s hard to quantify what has been specifically done by me,” she said.

So far, Kuykendoll said she has referred students to serve within Latino communities and assisted the assistant director of CAWC, Jacqueline Velarde, with the Latin American and Caribbean Festival, which took place in September.

Kuykendoll also said that she organizes volunteers for Human Rights and Social Justice Day on Nov. 19.

However Kuykendoll said this year she has focused on more independent projects, including the Aug. 30 Fall Fiesta Welcome event. The event, Kuykendoll said, tried to bring together different Latin American organizations as well as create campus awareness of the groups’ existence.

Mary Jane Berman, director of Center for American and World Cultures and associate professor of Anthropology, said the picnic which Kuykendoll organized that brought Latino-Hispanic students, faculty and staff together was a wonderful welcome for new people on campus and for people who already knew each other to re-establish bonds.

“It also demonstrates that the university welcomes and values people of Latino-Hispanic heritage,” Berman added.

Kuykendoll said the Latino community has always been a very welcoming, warm place.

After studying Spanish in high school and learning of the issues Latinos face in the U.S., she became passionate about addressing them. Her main goal, Kuykendoll said, is to make Miami students aware of the Latino community.

When she discovered the job opening she said it seemed like the perfect fit, combining community service with organization with planning events on Miami’s campus.

Her position was created in 2007 due to an anonymous donation she said, modeled off of a previous CAWC position but designed to incorporate partnerships between the Office of Community Engagement and Service.

“A lot of my first year was figuring out what’s going on here,” she said.

Berman said that even though Megan attended Miami for her undergraduate degree, she had to settle into her job and get a feel for how to build the best, long-lasting relationships with the Latino communities surrounding Miami’s campuses and in Cincinnati.

“Megan’s positive energy has been a big asset to the success of her work,” Berman said.

According to Ways, Kuykendoll has come far since being hired.

“She has expertly sustained existing partnerships on behalf of Miami University, in Oxford and Hamilton, and she has forged new partnerships in those communities in addition to ones in Middletown and Cincinnati,” Ways said.

According to Kuykendoll, her plans for the future is merely an extension of what she has already been doing up to this point. She said she wants to try to get more students involved in service and also try and get more classes involved in certain aspects of service.

She added she wants the Latino communities to trust Miami students and that those relationships take time, but once created, they’re crucial as well as beneficial to all parties involved.

“I believe the partnerships she has developed will support Miami’s service learning, civic and community engagement initiatives well into the future,” Ways said. “Megan’s role is one significant embodiment of President Hodge’s engaged university and we’re very proud she is part of our team.”