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Myya Helm, Political Science Major

Myya Helm

Political Science and International Studies Major with a Minor in Arabic Studies
Class of 2022

“I chose to double major in Political Science and International Studies because I knew I wanted to become a part of something bigger than myself. ”

A double major in Political Science and International Studies with a minor in Arabic Studies, Helm’s academic path has focused on her local community, international studies, and social justice. She has interned with the U.S. Department of State, represented WVU on its United Nations team, worked as a West Virginia state legislative intern, and is a board member for the West Virginia Black Heritage Festival. She has also worked for the WVU LGBTQ+ Center as an AmeriCorps VISTA. 

In Fall 2022, Helm started two-year research Master of Philosophy program at Cardiff University, studying history with a focus on the Welsh history of Black working class coal miners. 

“I think that analyzing history allows us to understand how society behaves, providing the data to create beneficial policy change for the future,” Helm said. “Because of that I want to study Black history in its own right and to document and share the Black experience critically, whether in West Virginia or Wales, to find out what people in the Black community were doing and thinking for themselves.”

After graduate school, Helm plans to return to the United States to earn both her Master of Arts and doctoral degrees in sociology from Howard University. Helm is also a Gilman International Scholar and an Eberly Arts and Sciences Scholar, and has been awarded a Boren Scholarship to study Arabic in Jordan.

Eberly Scholar Interview

Myya's interview was originally posted on the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences Website.

How did you choose your major?

I chose to double major in Political Science and International Studies because I knew I wanted to become a part of something bigger than myself. Coming from a small town in West Virginia as a racial and cultural minority, I always pushed to understand more about the world and its different people. With a never-ending want to increase mutual understanding, learning more about the cultures, languages and religions beyond our nation’s borders has continually fascinated me throughout my life. This, paired with my passion for addressing contemporary issues that affect marginalized and vulnerable populations, drove me toward the majors that would dive deeply into global policy and society where I knew I could make a positive change as a global citizen.  

How would you explain your major to a new WVU student? What advice would you give them?

Political science and international studies encompass political systems and philosophies that impact how global society functions and why it functions in the way it does. To be successful in these majors, you must have a passion for international change and a willingness to learn more about those that are unlike yourself. Patience is key in understanding, and once you understand, doors will open that you may have never even noticed were there.

How has your major prepared you for your future career?

These majors have allowed me to discover my interest in cross-cultural relations and refugee policy. The courses I have taken have allowed me to develop the knowledge, understanding and interdisciplinary skills needed to gain a career working with migrant populations. Upon completing my academic career and becoming well-versed in cross-cultural relations and refugee policy, I hope to work for the United States Department of State in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Specifically, I want to be a regional English language officer in the Office of English Language Programs. Through this position, I would design and oversee English as a Second Language programs through American embassies and consulates and promote English learning to specific groups such as refugees and internally displaced persons. This work will ultimately increase access to academic and professional opportunities in America and overseas  for foreigners.

What was the hardest (Eberly College) class that you loved? Why?

The hardest class I’ve taken was POLS 300: Empirical Political Analysis. The course was especially demanding, often took up a large chunk of my time and challenged me as a student. However, it also allowed me to pursue my own research on racial politics for the first time as a black woman. I learned more about policy misconduct among minority populations, compiling data from previous related studies as well as reports on proportional representation and police perception. In the end, I fully examined and confirmed the theory that increased racial representation within police forces reduces instances of police misconduct among minorities.

Do you have a favorite professor or instructor here? What makes them special?

Dr. Clarissa Estep has helped me navigate college life over the years as a first-generation West Virginian since she is a first-generation West Virginian herself.

What does it mean to be a Mountaineer?

Being a Mountaineer means being welcoming, inclusive and understanding. Mountaineers are kind, generous and personable. As a black woman from rural Appalachia, promoting love, acceptance and inclusivity no matter your race, color,  religion, sexual orientation or gender identity has always been important to me. WVU is a place that welcomes and respects all people, no matter who you are. Mountaineers will always greet you with a smile and treat you like you’re family. As a lifelong Mountaineer, I embody this attitude every day. Mountaineers will welcome you home with open arms to West Virginia as if you've lived here your entire life – and so will I.

Describe the best thing that’s happened to you at WVU so far.

WVU has allowed me to establish connections and create relationships all around the world that will last a lifetime. As a student, I have been fortunate enough to travel to eight countries on three different continents. In almost every one of these, I have friends that I can talk to, that I grab a cup of coffee with and that would offer me a place to sleep if I needed it. Having these ties across the globe is something that I would’ve never experienced had it not been for WVU. With the help of the study abroad office, the ASPIRE Office and my professors, I became a Gilman Scholar and a Boren Scholar and will continue traveling and making friends for years to come.

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