Tan Macaraeg has spent a lot of time trying to stay out of boxes.
“I think that as a queer, brown, and Filipino first-generation American, I spent a lot of my life being defined, and I feel like my college experience broke me out of that,” said Macaraeg.
While many students come to college intent on finding their niche, Macaraeg sought out new ways to belong and created new definitions of their values and communities. Throughout their journey, Macaraeg has taken the lessons they have learned and allowed those lessons to shape their choices and path through college.
Right from the start, Macaraeg began to see how the Honors Program could help form their identity.
“I think Honors Mindset Seminar constructed a solid foundation for how I sought to conduct myself and navigate the world,” Macaraeg said. “As a freshman, I really took hold of the concepts we learned such as deep learning, growth mindset, and the six dimensions, and they are still things I think about today.”
Those lessons really stuck as Macaraeg has served as an Honors Peer Mentor from 2019-22 and as an inaugural Honors Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Mentor in 2021-22, helping other new students discover the greatness within themselves.
“I consider myself someone who is committed to self-growth and bettering oneself in all aspects of life and living,” Macaraeg said. “I try to lead with kindness, lead with the heart, and try to align my intentions with my impacts.”
As Macaraeg began to change their mindset from short-term to long-term goals, a new opportunity provided revelations in their journey.
“What really did me in was being involved with Alternative Spring Break (ASB),” they said.
Macaraeg went on their first Honors ASB trip in 2018 and has continued to serve as a trip leader since 2019. Each time, they gained something unique and valuable from the experiences.
“Alternative Breaks and service learning completely changed my life and my vision for what I want to do post-graduation,” Macaraeg said. “I had done service … yet I had never reflected upon it. Reflection proved to be the beginning of my rebirth. Learning about active citizenship really jumped-started my questioning of who am I in this world and what role do I want to play.”
As Macaraeg began to rethink and redefine what their future could look like, all this self-reflection started to shape desires for a different future.
“I wanted to work toward betterment. I wanted to not change the world but to change other people’s worlds,” Macaraeg said. “I found myself restless at the thought of not being able to devote my time and energy toward real-world issues and breaking down systems and mindsets that allow the ‘status quo’ of oppression to perpetuate itself. That is what I wanted to do.
“Direct service and civic engagement are what I wanted to do with my two hands, seeing the process of change and resources coming in, and seeing the impact it makes on a community.”
As those goals solidified, this new mindset also formed Macaraeg’s time in ISU’s School of Theatre and Dance as a production design and technology major.
“When I think of the ways I have been undefined I think about my major, and often I feel like people like to make assumptions about theatre or what it is,” they said. “I think I definitely broke those assumptions, especially focusing on how transferrable skills are fostered in technical theatre. I redefined to myself what it means to major in theatre and how I can market myself post-grad.”
Being in a major that encompasses so many different aspects of the arts has really made them focus on the diversity of skills they have gained.
“I think about the aspects I love about theatre, carpentry, and technical direction, and it lives within making things with my own two hands, seeing the process behind putting up a production or project, and being able to show that work to others,” Macaraeg said.
All these experiences have culminated in a four-year journey of self-reflection and growth, opportunities and new lessons learned.
“What matters less is the words on the piece of paper I get after I graduate and more the skills I have developed through my involvement and experiences and how I can express them,” said Macaraeg. “I am the sole proprietor of my future. I like to think that in all of this hubbub of my college experience that I have defied the status quo to stay undefined in a world that constantly wants to define people. The culmination of my identities and lived experiences create me.”