When Darlasia Miller arrived on campus for her freshman year, she had no way of knowing the growth she would endure, the passions she would discover, or the community she would find in the years to come.

“When I received my letter of acceptance to Chico State, it was the best day of my life. Not only did it give me the chance to pursue higher education, but it represented a chance for a better life,” said the graduating senior. “I remember moving into my dorm with twenty bucks and a comforter set from the 99 Cent Store, but I was so happy to finally have a bed of my own. Going to Chico State means so much more to me than academics. It has allowed me to cultivate a new life for myself, my little sister, and hopefully for the rest of my family soon.”

Miller was raised by her father in Los Angeles. Challenges and struggles were not unknown in her single-income household, and at one point she was sleeping on the floor of a one-bedroom apartment alongside five family members. But these challenges never hindered her determination to pursue higher education—and to become the first in her family to earn a college degree—they made her fight a little bit harder.

Arriving at college without an idea of what she wanted to study, she began taking classes she found interesting, such as “Introduction to African American studies,” “Introduction to Multicultural and Gender Studies,” and “Women in Religion.” It was in these classes she discovered new ideas and her passions. Miller declared multicultural and gender studies (MCGS) for her major, with an option in women’s studies, and chose to minor in diversity studies.

Today, she is well-versed in feminist theology and a strong advocate in all aspects of multicultural, gender, and feminist causes. Those passions drive her career dreams.

“Eventually, I want to create an after-school program dedicated to higher education preparation, youth community organizing, and counseling for youth with incarcerated family members in South Central Los Angeles,” said Miller. “You shouldn’t have to wait until you come to college to start learning about feminism, other cultures, and unaltered history.”

Her drive to follow her beliefs and transform her visions into reality has not gone unnoticed by her faculty. They repeatedly praise her strong work ethic, intellectual curiosity, exemplary scholarship, advocacy skills, and determination to let self-reflection discover her path forward. Her support of other underrepresented voices has led to her being an academic leader and a unanimous choice for the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences Outstanding Senior Award.

“Faculty and staff in MCGS sing Darlasia’s praises as a major force in shaping the department’s presence on campus and in doing the activist work that is central to our department,” said professor and department chair Sara Cooper. “As a first-generation college student of color with few resources, Darlasia looked to college as a way to open doors for herself and her family. She has truly done that for herself and greatly enriched our department.”

Portrait of Darlasia in her MCGS shirt.

Miller has spent the last two years working as the MCGS student assistant, enabling her to plug into other on-campus organizations and embrace numerous causes. With sincerity, passion, and gentle humor, she is known to be an ally amongst her peers, as she has initiated collaborations between MCGS and Cross-Cultural Leadership Center, Just Us Unity Sistahs, Women of Excellence, Safe Place, and the Gender and Sexuality Equity Coalition (GSEC).

Through these groups, she has spearheaded and offered a helping hand with countless events, including the Tiny Concert Series, Women of Wisdom, Choose Chico, and Chico Preview Day. She also launched the Radical Book Swap, an idea she had while volunteering to clean out the MCGS library.

“My favorite moment was seeing how many books were actually donated!” said Miller. “The event gave students the opportunity to find some textbooks they may have been needing for class and some super interesting reads on dozens of radical topics—things people may have been interested in learning about but may not have felt comfortable checking out from the library, they could just pick up and enjoy.”

Professor Susan Frawley describes her as an incredible advocate and someone who “thinks about ways to strengthen our presence on campus, not only within her role as a student assistant but also as a student on her own time.”

Perhaps no event has meant as much to Miller as a workshop she presented at the GSEC’s Annual Womxn’s Conference in 2019.

“I talked about black hair as a shared experience, black hair as a movement, and black hair as a business, focusing on black women who have been pioneers in the hair industry,” said Miller. “I also talked about black women’s hair being controversial in the workplace and schools with women and girls being discriminated against because of their natural hairstyles.””

She also read a poem she had written to her natural hair for the first time. After the presentation, many people came to her with kind words, asking for hair tips, and chatting about the importance of her speech.

“I loved being able to talk about black hair as a black woman in an academic space,” she said. “It furthered my belief that black women in academia need their voices heard because what we have to say is valid in so many ways.”

Darlasia Miller speaks from a podium with a powerpoint behind her of black women and their hair.
Darlasia Miller speaks at the about black women and their hair at the 2019 Womxn’s Conference. (Photo courtesy of Matt Bates and the Chico Enterprise-Record)

Miller has a remarkable drive to educate and support others, said Professor Nandi Crosby. As a student in her “Prison Industrial Complex” course, she was one of the few students to accompany Crosby to a prison in January 2020. It was there, Crosby said, that Miller found a new path toward activism.

“She is articulate and humble, and she has a deep sense of her own worth as a worker, student, feminist, activist, and citizen,” Crosby said.

Despite so many remarkable achievements in the last four years, Miller is most proud that she’ll soon be able to call herself a college graduate. After four years of tireless work and dedication, this is her moment to seize.

“I love that I have been able to be a role model for my younger sisters to see that we can start the trend of higher education for future generations,” she said.

After graduation, Miller plans to work toward a master’s degree in education to continue her outreach. As she begins the journey to conquer new endeavors, the changes and influences she has cultured at Chico State will always reflect her dedication to her peers and future generations.

“We have seen her develop from a shy and reserved student into a dynamic powerhouse of informed activism.” Cooper said. “She is definitely a force to be reckoned with.”