Discover community and cultural connections with graduating Lit Major’24, Grace McMillan!!

Published on: May 13, 2024

A joint humanities and engineering major, senior Grace McMillan is setting her sights on a legal career focused on education policy reform.

Publication Date: May 9, 2024

Grace McMillan, holding a book, sits on a low-backed sofa with green cushions. A courtyard is visible through a window behind her.

Senior Grace McMillan pursued a degree in 21E: Humanities and Engineering, a joint degree program offered through SHASS. “Engineers need communication skills. You can be the smartest person in the room, but no one will care if you can’t convey your ideas effectively,” she says. Credits:Photo: Jon Sachs

Senior Grace McMillan grew up in western New York state in an all-woman intergenerational home. In the 1980s, her grandmother and mother defected from the USSR and came to the United States as refugees. They were the only Ukrainian family in their semi-rural town.

“My mom would tell me stories about how tough things were when she was growing up,” McMillan says. “I learned from her that my life is in my own hands, and I can do anything if I just put my mind to it.”

As she began thinking about her future, she developed an interest in space through movies. Soon, she was intently reviewing the academic prerequisites to becoming an astronaut on the NASA website. “I knew I needed a bachelor of science. I told myself I was going to MIT,” she says.

McMillan was accepted Early Decision with a full-ride scholarship through QuestBridge, a platform that matches high-achieving, low-income high school students with top colleges and universities.

She was ecstatic to enroll at MIT, but adjusting to urban life in Boston as a first-year was still a big change. “It was vertigo. The buildings were so tall, and the streets were so busy.” Simultaneously, her autoimmune disease flared, and she was hospitalized several times that spring. “[MIT Health] staff are wonderful and always really listened, and sent me to the right specialists,” she says.

Though she eventually found a treatment, McMillan stayed committed to prioritizing her health while also excelling academically. Now, she helps make on-campus health care more accessible in her role as a student representative on the MIT Health Consumers’ Advisory Council.

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