Natalie Miller, Valencia High School and College of the Canyons alumni, was among 18 Cal Poly students with honors recognized for their accomplishments by state lawmakers at the Capitol in Sacramento in February.
“Full of joy,” she said, describing her feelings after the announcement. “I was ecstatic in the fact I (got) to represent multiple communities.”
Miller graduated from College of the Canyons in 2017 with three associate’s degrees, in mathematics, physics and computer science.
She was involved in multiple clubs throughout her time at the school, including Phi Theta Kappa, Cougar Peer Educators and the Community Garden Club.
She was a student employee and made a lasting contribution by playing a critical role in the workflow that helps professors find and produce free textbooks, said James Glapa-Grossklag, dean of learning services at College of the Canyons.
The OER, Open Educational Resources, project at College of the Canyons, which she played a role in, has saved students $4 million in the last academic year.
“Natalie is an example of what College of the Canyons students can do when they put their minds to helping others,” Glapa-Grossklag said. “Natalie directs her considerable talents and energy towards helping fellow students. Her success in this role stems from her ability to collaborate with COC faculty members. Her maturity and poise are remarkable and she is a wonderful ambassador for College of the Canyons and Santa Clarita.”
“I give most of my credit to COC,” Miller said. Her involvement in her education started there, although she was accepted into multiple universities straight of of high school in 2014.
“If you have your goals for yourself, don’t give yourself less than what you deserve,” she said. She set goals for herself and felt choosing to start college at a local community college would be a good step to take.
“You get what you give. Get involved and make a community,” she said. “If you were at a university you would make a community, so why not do that at a community college.”
Another perk for her was the money she saved and working on campus.
“I think it is one of the best things you can do,” Miller said. “It helped me understand to my career path.”
After graduating from COC, she chose to transfer to Cal Poly because of their Learn by Doing philosophy, she said. “I think that getting students involved in real life opportunities is very important.”
Miller received the inaugural Student Award at the Open Education Consortium 2018 Open Education Awards for Excellence last March, which helped her get recognized in Sacramento.
“They picked us from awards we got,” Miller said. “I was the only transfer student that got in.”
On Feb. 11, she loaded in a bus with 17 other students to drive an hour and be recognized in Sacramento.
From receptions, presentations and meeting state Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, and other members of the state Senate, she shared her accomplishments at Cal Poly and “shared progress COC has made,” she said.
“Our faculty, staff and I take great pride in their accomplishments and know that they will bring to their careers the same energy, determination and creativity that they have displayed in their studies and extracurricular activities,” Cal Poly President Jeffrey D. Armstrong, said in the school’s news release.
Miller is scheduled to graduate with her degree this fall, and has an interest in cyber security, which is one of the main areas she has focused on in her program, she said.
“In 2019, she will be leading a grant with multiple other students across California to create the first student-made OER (Open Educational Resources) toolkit,” according to the news release.