Meghan Oxford ’20 has earned Campus Compact’s 2019 Newman Civic Fellowship, which recognizes and supports students committed to achieving social change.
Meghan Oxford ’20 is the sixth Rollins student to earn a Newman Civic Fellowship. Photo by Scott Cook.
The Newman Civic Fellowship recognizes and supports students who have demonstrated an investment in finding solutions for challenges facing communities throughout the country. The one-year fellowship provides training and resources that nurture students’ passions to help them develop strategies to achieve social change, preparing them for the long-term work of public problem solving and building equitable communities.
“Alongside fostering my passion for service and policy, the Newman Civic Fellowship will provide me a collaborative space with students from across the country who are committed to civic engagement and service in their communities,” says Oxford. “These connections and exchanges will serve me well beyond my senior year at Rollins as I pursue a career in public service through nonprofit and government work.”
Newman Civic Fellows are nominated by college and university presidents and chancellors to acknowledge motivation and potential in public leadership.
“From the moment Meghan Oxford arrived on the Rollins College campus, she has modeled the way as a young leader,” wrote Rollins President Grant Cornwell in his nomination letter. “As a member of our Bonner Leaders Program, Meghan has demonstrated her passion for building, sustaining, and renewing healthy communities. From young patients in a local hospital to exchange students from South America to Florida’s LBGTQ community, Meghan is a champion for advocacy and education.”
Photo by Scott Cook
Oxford’s first brush with the real impact of service came during her junior year of high school when she studied abroad as an exchange student in Peru through the Rotary Youth Exchange program. The eager, wide-eyed girl from Warner Robins, Georgia, dove head-first into a South American adventure that would shape her as a person, the course of her studies at Rollins, and eventually the direction of her career.
As an exchange student in Peru, Oxford lived on the outskirts of the capital city of Lima with a host family who didn’t speak any English. Each day on her way into the city, she passed slum after slum and saw firsthand the struggles of Peru’s poorest populations.
“I had never seen poverty like this,” says Oxford. “These people had no natural resources, their homes were crumbling. It made me sad, and I wanted to help.”
So in addition to attending classes, Oxford started asking lots of questions about these underserved communities, which meant the Spanish speaking took off at lightning speed. With the help of the Rotary Club and Oxford’s fellow exchange students, they hosted a fundraiser that raised enough money for a Christmas party for the community, full of toys and enough food for everyone for the rest of the holiday season.
“This experience is what sparked my passion for service and changed the way I saw it,” says Oxford. “Service wasn’t transactional anymore—it was something that could transform lives on both sides.”
When she landed at Rollins, the Bonner Leaders Program was a natural fit, and her varied experience through this program has allowed her to find what really clicks. She has served as the activities coordinator in the children’s wing at Florida Hospital, where she learned the importance of meeting people where they are in their journey. She has worked with the Rotary Youth Exchange—a program close to her heart—as a mentor who organized training camps for students in the program, reinforcing the responsibility of being an ambassador of your home nation while traveling abroad and learning about other cultures.
Working with Equality Florida this spring included a lobbying trip to Tallahassee, where Oxford got to meet state Rep. Anna Eskamani (top right) who represents Florida’s 47th district in Orange county.
This past semester, she served as a fieldwork and advocacy intern with Equality Florida, one of the country’s largest civil rights organizations for the LGBTQ population. It was here—working with public policy, organizing lobby days in Tallahassee, working in the community with other activist groups, mobilizing people toward a common goal—that her passion for service started taking a turn toward social justice.
Oxford credits her relationship with her mentor, Spanish professor Patricia Tomé, and various community engagement classes for helping fine-tune her direction. Her time in anthropology professor Nolan Kline’s Activism and Social Change course, for example, put her face to face with DACA as she worked with immigrants at the Hope CommUnity Center in Apopka just as the policy was being eliminated.
Meghan Oxford ’20 in her Spanish Literature and Film class with her mentor, Spanish professor Patricia Tomé. Photo by Scott Cook.
“This community engagement project turned into an internship in political advocacy,” says Oxford. “I gained experience reading through technical, political language, tracked every proposal for the budget, and really started to understand the political field and landscape of our time and how these people were being used as bargaining chips.”
This burgeoning advocate has since founded the Rollins Democrats Club alongside Mira Lines ’20 and Emma Thvedt ’20. Oxford will be spending part of her fellowship year interning in the nation’s capital through the Washington Semester Program at American University learning about foreign and domestic politics, law and jurisprudence, international business and trade, and economic policy.
Oxford is the sixth Rollins student to earn a Newman Civic Fellowship. Skylar Knight ’19, Meredith Ewen ’19, Arden Baxter ’18, Raul Carril ’14 ’16MBA, and Brock Monroe ’14 previously received the award.