After being expelled from high school and spending a decade playing in a revolving door of local bands, Miles Albrook Stanley decided to enroll at MiraCosta College because, well, he didn’t have much to lose.
“Fortunately, I still had a few brain cells left and I did well, surprisingly,” Stanley quipped. “I was also fortunate enough to have the support and encouragement of so many faculty and staff, people like Christopher Sleeper, Leslie Doig, and Lynn Miller. I became involved in the Honors Scholar Program, and the next thing I know, I’m transferring to UCLA through the TAG (Transfer Admission Guarantee) program.”
His educational journey has taken off from there. After earning his bachelor’s degree in history at UCLA, Stanley, now 34, landed The Simon Fennell Postgraduate Scholarship to attend the University of Edinburgh’s master’s degree program in United States History. That was followed last year by becoming the inaugural recipient of the Simon Fennell doctoral scholarship at the University of Edinburgh for his Ph.D.
Today, Stanley is in the midst of preparing to write his dissertation on Delaware’s role and impact on the slave trade in the late 18th century.
MiraCosta College, Stanley said, was the turning point. Until he landed at the Oceanside Campus, Stanley and school went together about as well as oil and water. Years of couch surfing and scraping by on what he was making as a bass player, guitarist, and vocalist, however, convinced him it was time to give college a try.
“The first time I worked with Miles, he dropped my world history class to tour with his band, Vinyl Film,” said History Professor Christopher Sleeper, who coordinates the Honors Scholar Program. “I thought that might be the last time I saw Miles because he was so talented in so many ways. When he came back to MiraCosta a few semesters later, he was such a joy to work with. He had so much intellectual curiosity and he wanted to learn everything. He saw connections in history that others would miss. Everyone loved Miles in his courses because he was a natural communicator and teacher, who looked like a handsome French pirate with charisma equal to his stature. He could converse with everyone, and within five minutes, you knew it was going to be a conversation that you would want to join. He was willing to help everyone. It was like everyone had a friend in Miles.”
Stanley was 26 when he enrolled at MiraCosta College, where he was welcomed with open arms. A Pell Grant, early morning shifts at Starbucks, and evenings working at a restaurant helped pay the bills. Classes were scheduled during the day. Sleep was almost a luxury. Naps in his car helped him get by. The Honors Scholar Program propelled him to excellence. Research conferences kept him on top of his game.
“The research conferences were like being in a band, except instead of being on stage, you were at a different type of venue. My new stage was at the podium. Audience members were engaged learners. Conferences challenged me and helped me grow. I really can’t say enough about how awesome the Honors Program at MiraCosta College is,” said Stanley.
But why history? “History to me has always been about the plight of the underdog. But history also teaches you to use so many different skills—writing, argumentation, and the ability to find and provide evidence to support your thesis. It instills valuable critical analytical skills, and all of those skills—the ability to read, interpret, communicate, deliver a message—are transferable to basically any line of work.” answered Stanley.”
Good thing. Stanley says he is unsure of his plans after earning his doctorate. He may move to Germany, where his wife, Eva, whom he met in Edinburgh, is from. He may embark on finding a niche leading seminars. Consulting also isn’t out of the picture. Nor is teaching.
One thing Stanley is certain of, is MiraCosta College’s impact. “MiraCosta absolutely changed my life and the years I was there were among the best I’ve experienced,” Stanley said. “I was a recovering musician and didn’t think I had much of a future. Walking onto that campus and being told all of a sudden that my opinions had value was incredibly empowering. It was hugely transformative.”
His former professors say Stanley embodies the best of MiraCosta College. “I am incredibly proud MiraCosta is a place where students can get a fresh start, that we are a place where, even if students aren't sure what they want to do in the future, they have some space to explore and find their fit and can discover their passions,” said History Professor Lesley Doig. “And once they do, they can launch anywhere. I also love that we are a small community and we are able to get to know our students. Lots of people supported Miles in the time he was here.“
Added Sleeper, “You always want your students to be the best versions of themselves, and Miles is one of the best students and one of the most fun and interesting students I have worked with in 17 years of community college teaching.”