Doing a World of Good
She might be lying through her teeth, but Georgia Maynard ’15 isn’t trying to be deceitful when she tells people she’s from Spartanburg, S.C. She’s just trying to avoid all the questions.
“Nobody seems to have any questions about Spartanburg – they just accept it and move on,” shrugs Maynard, who, truth be told, grew up in London, England; Norfolk, Va.; Brasilia, Brazil; and New Delhi, India. “It’s a lot to explain. I just don’t feel like going into it all the time. Besides: Where am I from, really?”
With a British mother and an American diplomat for a father, Maynard was born a dual citizen in England, where she spent the first eight years of her life. From there, the family moved to Virginia, then Brazil, then back to Virginia before returning briefly to Brazil before moving to London, where she completed her high school years.
“I remember on one of my flights recently, I was telling the person sitting next to me about my background, and he said, ‘You either have a million friends or none.’ It’s true, because when you aren’t in one place for very long, it’s hard to stay in touch,” says Maynard, who never got to know her grandmothers due to her family’s peripatetic lifestyle. “It’s a strange thing trying to find an identity when you’re going from one very different culture to the next. It’s developmentally bizarre. But it’s obviously rewarding in terms of my understanding of the world. It has rounded out my world view.”
Wherever she went, Maynard had the privilege of attending private school – and she became acutely aware that her native friends, who attended the public schools, were not getting the same education she was.
“Living in developing countries shows you that, somehow, not everyone is entitled to the same chances in life,” says Maynard, adding that, as a member of the expatriate community, she was encouraged to volunteer and be active in community service. “So, for example, in Brazil, I volunteered in an orphanage – everyone did. That’s just what you did on the weekends.”
In college, Maynard spent her winter and summer breaks in India, where she worked with a mentorship program that paired her with a peer from the slums: one of the untouchables. Dilip and she were the same age, had the same taste in music, the same dreams of love and romance. Only he had no running water, no books and no future.
“The most important thing I took from that experience is not to take my education for granted, to be a steward of education and to use my education to make a more equal chance for education globally,” says Maynard, whose decision to come to the College was an “absolutely random,” since she’d never even been to Charleston before first-year orientation. Since then, she has become quite oriented, indeed – even working in the athletics department doing the instant-replay videos.
True to self, however, Maynard has continued to travel – spending two summers working for the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, critically examining the injustices within the Indian government institutionally protected by legislation. While she was there, she also worked with an organization dedicated to providing equal education opportunities to the impoverished as well as with a Mormon women’s group, where she witnessed firsthand the oppression of women, the injustices that they suffer there.
“The one story that stands out is the story of a woman called Asha, which means hope,” says Maynard, explaining that she became quite good friends with Asha, who was abused by her alcoholic husband, but could not leave him. “There was just no option.”
And it’s not an isolated case, says Maynard, who was not far away from the gang rape that occurred on a private bus in Delhi in 2012 and garnered international headlines. Even Maynard herself experienced plenty of stares, catcalls and unsolicited photographs.
“It really changes your perspective on how the world views women, so that’s what made me want to study gender equality,” says Maynard, whose commitment to promoting positive change landed her one of the seven Ketner Emerging Leaders Scholarships her junior year.
In 1990, Linda Ketner started these scholarships – which require recipients to dedicate at least 34 hours per semester to activism – for students interested in women’s and gender studies as well as social justice, public service and civil leadership. It is Ketner’s hope that, by financially rewarding these students, they will be encouraged and inspired to become agents of change – much as she has strived to be through her public service. Ketner, president of KSI Corporation and a Democratic candidate for Congress in 2008, has served as board president of the Coastal Community Foundation and One-Eighty Place (formerly Crisis Ministries). In addition to serving as founder and chair of the Mayor’s Council on Homelessness and Affordable Housing and the S.C. Housing Trust Fund, she is a co-founder of S.C. Citizens for Housing and founder and past president of the Alliance for Full Acceptance and the S.C. Equality Coalition. Ketner is a former member of the College’s women’s and gender studies program advisory board and currently serves on the President’s Community Advisory Board.
“Linda Ketner is so cool. She is awesome,” says Maynard. “Also, it’s awesome to have the financial help from this scholarship, and it’s encouraged me to be more active on campus and to be more aware of injustices.”
Thanks in large part to her Gender and Violence course, Maynard has taken a particular interest in sexual assault victims and gender-based crime and how it is handled on campus.
“I take the feminist approach to handling the problem, researching about what we could possibly do to change the environment of victim blaming and indifference,” says Maynard, whose capstone course was on sexual assault and gender violence. “Once you take away the stigma, this is a problem just like any other problem that needs to be dealt with. We need to make a change.”
And, as a Ketner Emerging Leader, Maynard is committed to being an agent of that change.
“Change doesn’t happen without people who are dedicated,” she says, noting that change involves a broad understanding of the issue at hand – one that comes best from exposure to many different perspectives. “To fully understand a problem or an issue, I really think you have to get out of your comfort zone and experience other ideas, other cultures.”
And who better to speak to this idea of discovering different perspectives than someone who calls Spartanburg home, by way of England, Brazil and India.