This story is a part of our “A Day in the Life” series that highlights the career journeys of 2U employees across the world. Throughout February, we’re celebrating Black History Month and featuring members of one of our Business Resource Networks: the Black Engagement Network (BNet).
Miriah Garnett’s passion for celebrating her uniqueness is matched only by her eagerness to share it with others. At 2U, she can proudly and fearlessly do both.
“Being a Black biracial woman in a creative role, it is not often that you come across many people who share the same physical attributes and cultural norms that you do,” the 2U graphic designer says. “So to join the company and see an organization like the Black Engagement Network (BNet) embrace people like me—and create a space for us to feel welcomed—was something I had never experienced, but was so excited to be a part of.”
Becoming a graphic designer, however, was not part of Miriah’s original career plan. While her family always emphasized the importance of going to college and earning a degree, Miriah initially intended to study biology and eventually become a doctor. But the road to helping people was going to be a long one (and as Miriah confesses, she quickly discovered she was pretty terrible in biology). With an art teacher for a mom, Miriah knew she had a knack for visual creativity, so she switched gears and soon found her calling in University of Maryland Baltimore County’s design program.
Miriah packed her creative portfolio with interesting projects, reaped the rewards of giving back by advising students as a UMBC resident assistant, and ultimately graduated with a B.A. in Graphic Design. She continues to make education a priority in her life by mentoring middle school students through 2U’s partnership with the DC-area nonprofit Higher Achievement. And as a self-proclaimed “sauce enthusiast,” Miriah is also a budding entrepreneur with her side project of homemade mayos and sauces (yum!).
Read on to learn more about Miriah’s role on the Marketing team, her design creations for BNet, what Black History Month means to her, and much more.
Why did you join 2U? What is it about the company that sparked your interest?
Before joining 2U a little over two years ago, I was working as a production artist at a Fortune 500 investment firm. While I loved the work I did, I was a contractor with little chance of transitioning into a full-time position. I greatly desired an environment that would value me as an employee, invest in my career and goals, and ultimately create a positive work culture.
Needless to say, the day I walked into company headquarters and took in all that was 2U, I knew I was in the right place. My fondest memory that day was seeing people walk around in hats and sweatshirts with the 2U logo and thinking, “Wow! People love this company so much that they are wearing 2U clothes.” While this may seem like a silly thought now, it truly attests to all that I love about 2U: the diversity and culture, the value it places on its employees, and the positive atmosphere.
How would you describe your role as a graphic designer?
When most people think of a graphic designer, they think of an individual who makes magazines, business cards, and websites look pretty. However, I see my role as the driving force behind the effective communication of visuals and how that impacts society. Without graphic design, so much of the information we consume could be easily forgotten, confused, or misconstrued.
For example, when graphics and signage began to appear at the onset of the pandemic, health departments, government organizations, and businesses had to rely on graphic designers to effectively communicate COVID-19 safety. This included signage in grocery stores about standing six feet apart, infographics on social media showing how to correctly wear a mask, and information on the web explaining where to find the nearest vaccination center. Seeing the impact of graphic design throughout society, especially during a pandemic, reaffirms my chosen profession and, above all, proves graphic designers accomplish way more than simply making the world look beautiful.
What compelled you to join 2U’s Black Engagement Network (BNet)? What has been your involvement so far?
As a Black biracial woman, I joined BNet because I was overwhelmed with excitement at the idea that there was an organization that promoted the culture of people at 2U who looked just like me. When BNet first launched, I was eager to participate in the events they were hosting.
One of those events was a networking session where I met Suraju Jolaoso, a student success advisor and one of the many social butterflies at 2U. During the event, Suraju learned that I was a designer on the Marketing team and explained that BNet was looking to brand itself. He asked if I was interested in creating a logo for the group, and I replied with an enthusiastic “YES!”
Like a domino effect, this led me to meet so many other inspirational Black leaders throughout the company, make positive network connections, and ultimately participate in amazing creative projects—such as designing the BNet logo and creating the BNet brand for Black History Month. I am so glad to work at a company that values the importance of creating space for cultural inclusion, and to be a part of an organization where I can be proud of my own heritage.
Some of Miriah's branding concepts, designs, and sketches for 2U
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Black History Month is the one month out of the year when Black people as a collective get to share their love, appreciation, and pride for being unapologetically Black with the world. However, as a Black biracial woman, every month in my world is Black history month. Being Black is not something that gets turned on during the shortest month of the year, only to be turned off during all the other months.
And while all the recent political unrest has made this month even more important in 2021, it won’t ever fully capture the importance of acknowledging Black people’s roles in history and present-day society every day of the year. Nonetheless, I am constantly an advocate of promoting Black lives and history 24/7. Whether it’s buying from Black-owned businesses, spreading Black love, or embracing the culture of Black people, it encompasses my whole life.
For example, when brainstorming the BNet visuals for this year’s Black History Month events—ranging from a flyer to social media graphics to Zoom backgrounds—I came across an idea to feature photos from an Instagram profile called blackarchives.co, which showcases Black people all throughout history simply living life. During Black History Month, our history is typically represented through important political dates or significant Black figures; however, it doesn’t often show Black people just existing.
Inspired by blackarchives.co, my goal with BNet’s Black History Month visuals was to use the photo collection to highlight Black people doing everyday things throughout the years: Black kids laughing, Black couples dancing, a Black woman holding her child, to name a few. It’s a powerful way to emphasize that Black appreciation isn’t just a once-a-year occurrence, but something that happens every day, all year round, and should be depicted as such.
How would you characterize 2U’s approach and commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)?
The Black Lives Matter protests ignited by George Floyd’s death last summer were a major event in history which, in my opinion, created a huge pivot for 2U when it came to the company’s commitment to DEI. There seemed to be a shift in understanding that DEI should not just exist in the workplace, but be continuously addressed as well, as it is an ever-changing facet of employees’ lives. I am proud to work at a company that holds itself accountable for creating a space for DEI, that actively addresses its faults and works to better them, and that promotes the need to keep DEI in constant conversation.
You’re also an entrepreneur with your own side business. Are there any learnings from 2U that you’ve applied to its development and success?
My side business, Milagros Mayo, is a relatively new business venture that I have been working on for about two years. While I’m still trying to fully launch it, I have been able to apply so much of what I’ve learned from working on the 2U Marketing team to promoting my own business. (And that’s way more than just designing an ad and posting it on social media!) Additionally, hearing Co-Founder and CEO Chip Paucek tell his story of 2U’s grassroots beginnings, and seeing it flourish as the company it is now, inspires me to press onward with the mission of my own business.
What advice would you give to someone just starting at 2U?
Don’t be afraid to put yourself and your goals out there. Coming from a workplace where it was better to be seen and not heard, I found it so refreshing to be able to voice my ideas at 2U, and have meaningful acknowledgement and/or change occur as a result. Whether it was sharing my career goals with my manager, expressing interest in a 2U Business Resource Network, or simply desiring more team bonding opportunities, my voice was never lost or ignored.
At 2U, your ideas, your drive, and your dreams are always welcomed and—even better—listened to. So don’t be afraid to speak up—there is always someone ready and willing to listen.
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