Student Spotlight: Maggie Yancey
Maggie Yancey wanted to study journalism after watching Oprah Winfrey’s talk show.
“Every day at 3 p.m., her interviews introduced me to influencers such as journalists like Lisa Ling who were telling stories for those who couldn’t, world influencers like Jeffery Sachs of the UN Millennium Goals, and philanthropic influencers like Melinda Gates,” she said. “All of this influenced my own path to study journalism and motivated my own professional endeavors working in politics, nonprofit and, most recently, the government on renewable energy.
“Throughout my career, it has been important for me to be someone who can tell the stories of complicated issues, whether about a candidate, an environmental disaster like the BP Deep Water Horizon oil spill, or how a government-awarded prize has doubled the amount of renewable energy that a wave energy converter is able to produce.”
Yancey graduated a year early from high school to join the Peace Corps without realizing she needed a bachelor’s degree to do so. She decided starting at College of DuPage made sense financially and initially planned to stay for one year.
During her first semester, Yancey enrolled in a speech class and gave an informative presentation about global economics and poverty, topics she had learned about from Winfrey’s shows. Professor Lauren Morgan was so impressed that she suggested Yancey join the Speech team.
“The team consisted of other passionate individuals who were interested in politics and the news and were self-motivated to propose solutions,” she said. “I thrived in this environment because of the relationships I formed with my teammates and coaches. I made incredible friendships, which are even stronger now, and I decided to stay at COD for my associate degree because I wanted to formally be a part of the institution that introduced me to the incredible faculty and opportunities that I was enjoying.”
The forensic coaches were so impressed with Yancey’s positive spirit and leadership that they created The Maggie Award, named in her honor to recognize others who best exemplify team leadership.
But Yancey’s experience at College of DuPage stretched beyond the Speech team.
“COD was the training ground I needed to pay attention to the relationships all around me, and I could practice asking good questions,” she said. “The professors were always willing and motivated to give extra help or introduce me to a new activity, like the Model UN. If it wasn’t for COD, I probably would not have competed collegiately on speech teams or traveled to the University of Texas at Austin as part of our 2006 national runner-up team. And if it wasn’t for my fellow teammates, I am not sure I would have known about the opportunity to apply to be a Presidential Management Fellow, which occurred in 2015.”
Yancey transferred to the University of Texas and earned a bachelor’s degree in Journalism, then completed a master’s degree in Public Administration at the University of Nebraska. She currently works for the Department of Energy in its Wind and Water Power Technologies Office. Her focus on public service and interest in social issues, especially environmental issues, have led to career opportunities, including legislative assistant for a member of the Texas House of Representatives; legislative aide at McWilliams & Associates, the top grossing lobby firm in Texas; and water resources campaign coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation.
“My work in public service is motivated by my desire to serve the American public and being intentional and thoughtful about solving the country’s most complex problems related to environmental issues,” she said. “I grew up on the Gulf Coast, and when the 2010 Deep Water Horizon Oil spill happened, this directly impacted my family and proved to be catastrophic to some of my most special places to visit. I learned that the government has the responsibility to ensure justice is served and that fair and equitable settlements go to those who suffered, like the oystermen who lost business because the oysters’ ecosystems were destroyed.”
One of her most satisfying experiences was leading the communications and outreach team for the Department of Energy’s 2016 Wave Energy Prize.
“Wave energy is produced by converting the energy from waves into electricity. More than 50 percent of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of coastline and could take advantage of this untapped renewable resource,” she said. “At DOE, our team led a competition to double the amount of energy that a wave energy converter device can produce. The winning team surpassed the competition’s goal of doubling energy, and the first prize will prove transformative to the marine and tidal wave energy industry development. But the experience also introduced me to a new passion: technology innovation.”
Yancey is currently on a detail for NASA, working on innovation research to reduce existing barriers and allow small businesses to solve some of NASA’s biggest problems.
“It’s also important for me to try new areas that I am less comfortable with such as procurement, human resources and cost estimating,” she said. “I want to create a full wheelhouse of skills so I can successfully pursue leadership opportunities, such as an office director within an agency.”
Yancy is proud to be part of the College of DuPage legacy. She serves on the Forensics Alumni Board and helped create a mentoring program for speech team members. Yancey also was selected to the Distinguished Alumni Class of 2016.
She advises any student interested in COD to make the most of the experience.
“You will have every opportunity to get engaged in incredible activities and interact with top-notch professors and instructors who are selfless and willing to be there for you in your student development,” she said. “Take advantage of the relationships around you, because they are some that will last you a lifetime and begin a network that can transform your future.”
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