Reflecting on 18 of Last 9: Kevin McLaughlin

award recipient poses with his novel and friends

By Megan Schulte, Communications Specialist

Our next feature in the 18 of Last 9: Global Impact series, is published writer and small business owner Kevin McLaughlin. During the interview, McLaughlin reflected on various international experiences, including studying abroad, that have impacted the path that he took in life.

Personal Development 

McLaughlin struggled with the idea of spending an entire semester away from Miami and instead opted for two extended spring break programs. Junior year he traveled to the island of Dominica in the Caribbean with the Geography Department, and senior year he traveled to Guatemala with the student organization Students for Peace and Justice to study human rights issues.

“It makes personal the stories of the people, stories that might be easy to overlook if you aren’t coming into direct contact with them," McLaughlin said. "So to me, it’s very important as far as life education to seek out the uncomfortable and learn about the world through your experience, and that’s why I knew I really needed to study abroad.”

He stressed that since leaving Miami, this theme has continued in his life, and he still values that life lessons can be gained from time abroad.

Standing in Solidarity 

For McLaughlin’s trip to Guatemala, the mission focused around solidarity: to stand in solidarity with victims of human rights violations. This particular trip was centered around a Canadian-based mining company and its land dispute with Mayan landowners. The group spent time staying at the homes of the people and hearing their stories. Many of these people detailed how their families had been there for centuries. He said that the simple act of listening to them and showing them support meant the world to them.

“To me, it was just very eye opening and such an honor to be able to show up in that way for someone and for some people," McLaughlin said. "So that’s taken me forth to see the power of simply showing up for people. You don’t have to any kind of big answers, but just being there means a lot and letting people know that they are seen and heard." 

Innocent: A Spirit of Resilience 

In the few years after graduation, McLaughlin completed a masters in public administration from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and then went on to work for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for 4 years. During this time, McLaughlin took a life-changing trip to Uganda to visit a friend who was running a non-profit called Unified for Uganda. In this first few days of the trip, McLaughlin met one of his friend’s co-workers, Innocent. Innocent’s story of being a child soldier was very moving to McLaughlin, and a deep connection was formed between the two. Before his departure, Innocent asked McLaughlin to share his story with the world. After leaving the EPA, he did just that, publishing a book titled “Innocent: A Spirit of Resilience”

McLaughlin says that sharing this story has been such an honor and drastically changed his life path. Since publishing the book, he has directed his efforts towards opening a community-based coffee shop called Larema Coffee in North Carolina.

Final Thoughts

 “I decided 'I don’t know, so I need to go and learn,'" McLaughlin said. "I learned to think not what can I offer but instead what I can I learn from others and their experiences. I knew I needed to go beyond my comfort zone during my time at Miami.”


Information about McLaughlin's book can be found at his website or Amazon

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