by Kimberly McNair, EdD, Director of College Access and Enrollment at Montgomery College in Maryland
Jimmie McMillian, senior corporate counsel for Hulman & Company served as closing plenary speaker to end AACRAO’s 28th annual Strategic Enrollment Management Conference
. McMillian used his own life’s struggles to illuminate the hopes many college students bring to our campuses, and the challenges that sometimes derail them. He described standing on the balcony of a Ritz Carlton when he was struck by the magnitude of his journey.
Since age 12, McMillian’s dream was to become an attorney. After high school he attended Michigan State University, where he adjusted well and flourished. That is, until a personal tragedy sent him on a downward spiral academically, which led to his departure from the institution. McMillian described working at a series of jobs, thinking his past academic failure defined his future trajectory. Fortunately, his dream for his life never totally faded, and he eventually found himself back in school at Indiana University.
McMillian said he asked lots of questions, made repeated calls and inquiries, and multiple visits to campus for reassurance; making sure he was on the right path to achieve his goals. He attributed his return to college and ultimate success to staff and faculty that helped him make the most of his second chance. He ended his inspirational message where he started - on the balcony of a Ritz Carlton, where he fell to his knees in gratitude.
“The struggle is in me, but it doesn’t define me,” McMillian said as he thanked those who helped him along the way. “You are a light in the darkness” and “bright sunshine to help the field grow.”
In closing, McMillian offered a sincere and heartfelt “thank you” on behalf of all students. "Thank you for answering my never ending questions, thank you for taking my calls, thank you for showing me the way, and thank you for giving me and students like me a second chance."