A passionate and effective champion of LGBTQ+ rights, Washington University in St. Louis junior Ranen Miao has been awarded a Truman Scholarship, the premier graduate fellowship in the United States for those pursuing careers in public service.
One of 58 students selected from a field of 705 applicants, Miao is a member of the Beyond Boundaries Program and is majoring in political science and sociology in Arts & Sciences. He will receive up to $30,000 to attend law school. Miao hopes to serve as a civil rights litigator for the American Civil Liberties Union and, one day, hold elected office.
“In the same way that Ruth Bader Ginsburg paved the path for gender equality through ACLU litigation, I hope to set precedents that will uphold the rights of LGBTQ+ people, including anti-discrimination protections, freedom of expression in schools and the separation of church and state,” Ranen wrote in his application.
Miao has made a big impact during his years at Washington University. During his two terms as Student Union president, Miao successfully advocated for the university to provide students telehealth and virtual counseling and to offer free menstrual products in all-gender and women’s restrooms. He also helped establish the Food Security Fund, expand religious and academic accommodations and institutionalize the use of pronouns in student government. Miao also is a member of the College Democrats, Pride Alliance, Student Affairs Advisory Board, Debate Team, Asian Multicultural Council and Sensasians acapella group.
“Ranen’s approach and leadership style is rooted in connection with others,” wrote Mark Kamimura-Jimenez, associate vice chancellor and dean of the Center for Diversity and Inclusion. “He connects with student leaders, university leadership and, most importantly, with his student peers who are often not included in conversations that affect their experiences. We need more leaders who ground their decisions in the experiences of the people they represent. Ranen is one of those rare leaders.”
Raised in Edison, N.J., Miao has been named a Point Foundation Scholar, a Prism Foundation Scholar, and, at WashU, a Gephardt Institute Goldman Fellow and a Merle Kling Research Fellow. In addition, he is a research assistant at the Social Policy Institute and has served as an intern for U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York, the U.S. State Department, the American Civil Liberties Union and NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri.
Growing up gay and the son of Asian immigrants, Miao rarely saw leaders who represented his unique identities. But at Washington University and in St. Louis, Miao found a second family in the queer community, deepening his passion to promote LGBTQIA+ rights in the future.
“While exploring my passion for public service, these relationships also showed me the rich diversity of the LGBTQIA+ community and the depth of need for policies that center our humanity, health and lives,” Miao wrote. “I believe my identities offer me a nuanced view at what structural oppression and disadvantage truly are: it is about doubting whether you will ever belong, be respected, be loved. It is visceral, and it is personal. Today, I am deeply grateful for the pain that I carry; it is my greatest asset, and a source of limitless, inexhaustible motivation to build a better world.”