Market research analyst, University of New England
For Meredith Milnes, two facets of her job as a market research analyst for the University of New England make it interesting – learning something new and communicating that knowledge.
“I love that I get to learn deeply about very specific slices of the world I wouldn’t likely be otherwise exposed to in my daily life,” said Milnes, 27. “The world is a broad, endlessly fascinating place, and I feel lucky be able to tumble down rabbit holes as a profession. The other side of that is then compiling data into a compelling story. I love thinking about how to best use visual graphics and language to convey implications, to illustrate the significance of certain findings, and to drive toward the best course of action according to the data gathered.”
Milnes grew up in New Hampshire. After receiving a degree in English from Dickinson College, she attended the Denver Publishing Institute, a program of the University of Denver that provides what Milnes calls “an incredibly robust crash course on the many facets of the industry.”
“While there, I fell in love with Colorado, and landed a job in marketing at a publishing house there,” said Milnes. “With time, I felt that I wanted to be in a role and field that was more proactive and less reactive to industry and technological trends, and started the process of looking for my next step, professionally.”
It made sense to Milnes to come back East for work, as her family and her heart were in New England.
“Portland struck me as fulfilling so many of the things that I was looking for in a place: a vibrant, closely knit, passionate community, down-to-earth people, and proximity to nature,” said Milnes. “Prior to present work at UNE, I was a manager at The Beacon Group, a strategy consulting firm in Portland that works with clients in the health care, tech, aerospace and defense and energy spaces. It was a spectacular opportunity to be doing research and strategy work at the leading edge of innovation in those industries.”
Miles said the transition to UNE offered a chance to do similar work with the opportunity to see projects through to the implementation stage.
“I work in the College of Graduate and Professional Studies, which houses online graduate and professional degrees. Since it was established in 2012, it has experienced unbelievable growth,” she said. “I’m in the lucky position of being involved in analyzing new program concepts and assessing existing programs to ensure that we’re remaining competitive and innovative in what we’re offering to students.”
Education – higher education in particular – has experienced a “fascinating sea change” in the past 10 years, according to Milnes.
“It is now at a point of high-impact transition. In many ways it’s not unlike the crisis that publishing went through with the advent of digital media and the change in purchasing pressures that followed,” said Milnes. “Recent economic and labor challenges have resulted in a sort of cracking open of what we think of when we think of higher education. Students are calling for education to take a more democratized, more contemporary form that will give them a direct and timely return on their investment. Increasingly, online courses, boot camps, and other ‘alternative’ forms of education are answering that call, becoming significantly more market-focused than higher education has been traditionally.”
Milnes said that although market research isn’t yet common in higher education, it is recognized as a best practice in the business world.
“Making data-driven decisions is going to be critical as universities compete for a stronghold in this new education environment and that means using market research – labor data, economic trends, supply and demand drivers, stakeholder insights, and competitive intelligence – to inform concrete strategies,” said Milnes.
Off campus, Milnes volunteers for A Company of Girls, a nationally recognized after-school program in Portland that uses the arts as a basis for youth empowerment. She was introduced to the program when she participated in a leadership development, mentoring and matching course offered by Lift360, which pairs graduates with a Maine nonprofit board and/or committee leadership role.
Lift360 was formed by the merger of the Institute for Civic Leadership and Common Good Ventures. The organization’s mission is to improve the “effectiveness of leaders and organizations in Northern New England.”
The Lift360 program appealed to Milnes as both an opportunity to become involved in the local nonprofit world, and a chance to network with like-minded young professionals.
“It absolutely delivered on both of those fronts,” said Milnes. “One of the real strengths of the program is the education they provide regarding nonprofit board work. They do a great job presenting the skills, responsibilities, and opportunities for support that are wrapped up in being a productive board member.”
Milne’s first experience with A Company of Girls was when she attended a performance by the group of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
“I was blown away by the level of poise, confidence and courage that the girls were exhibiting, both on stage, as well as in their interactions as ushers and ticket collectors,” said Milnes. “Since then I’ve been involved with the Special Events committee, helping to execute fundraisers and events to generate awareness and get more people involved with A Company of Girls. It has been a wonderful experience.”
Milnes sees the future as offering endless possibilities as long as she maintains a high level of curiosity and drive.
“Professionally, I’d like to be in a position managing teams and leading strategy development in a collaborative, innovative, nimble environment.” she said. “I’m a big believer in experiential education. I think that travel, making, and doing add really important layers of wisdom to the smarts that traditional education requires, and so I envision myself working towards that kind of interdisciplinary life.”
And learning and doing is something Milnes engages in on a regular basis, both in and outside of work.
“I’m a notorious hobby nerd,” said Milnes, who has tried her hand at glassblowing and ceramics. “And I love traveling, hiking, cooking, running, camping, practicing yoga, seeing live music, reading, drinking delicious beers, cross-country skiing, and enjoying friends and family. Again, (to me) the world is an endlessly fascinating place.”