Alumni Interview with Aisha Mitchell

Aisha Mitchell

Class of 2012

By: Chace Blackburn, 2018

The other week, I was given the privilege to interview Aisha Mitchell, from the Periclean class of 2012. Since graduating, she has pursued many adventures, the latest of which is returning to Elon.

“After I graduated, I moved back to DC, where I was born and raised.. I was an international studies major at Elon, and ended up working at a Chinese Immersion public charter school. I did that for two years; while I was doing that I was serving on the Board of Trustees at Elon. This was great because it allowed me to stay connected to Elon,” Aisha said.

AishaBut until last year, Aisha had no idea just how connected to Elon she would soon be.

“In the early fall of 2014, I came back to Elon. I currently live in Durham, but commute to work in the Student Professional Development Center in Corporate and Employer Relations. Basically, I am on the external side of professional development. I am traveling and researching to  build relationships with employers, in order to market jobs and internships to students, and  foster employer engagement with the university, ultimately trying to make students aware of opportunities.”

Aisha found out about the job in what she considers, a fateful manner.

“I received a call from someone who worked at Elon, she saw the position, called me, and said I would be a good fit. I never considered coming back to Elon after graduating. It was interesting though because it was my last term on the board and I had just been asked to help read names for the Black Excellence Awards. I was sitting next to Jim Piatt- chatting, talking about where I was in life, before I had even known about the job, and he said, “wouldn’t it be interesting if you worked at Elon? It was so ironic that he said that and then the following fall I started working here. I definitely feel like this is where I’m supposed to be.”

Aisha attributes Periclean for a lot of her post-graduate success.

“I feel like we had a big impact on our country (India). Interestingly, we were late bloomers, we figured out things later than class that came before us. Once we decided to partner with the Comprehensive Rural Health Project, it really worked. We were responsive to the needs of the organization. I would say there were two  things that were most impactful  for our legacy: we planned and implemented a corporate social responsibility conference, which brought together NGO’s and corporations. We were intentional about wanting to address corruption as well as identify ways for valuable NGO’s to best partner with those in India’s corporate sector. Corporate social responsibility is growing in India, and we wanted to positively impact and advance that trend. We were able to bring together groups that wouldn’t have connected without the conference, which exposed strengths and weakness of both sides, and was helpful to see how the groups should best work together. We put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into that conference. We had over a hundred participants, whom we made great relationships with and were able to defer to later.”

Aisha would cite the fellowship her class started as the second most impactful thing for their periclean legacy.

“We started a fellowship to help sustain our efforts in India, since we were graduating and were unable to be consistent in working with the CRHP community. “

Periclean, in addition to other endeavors truly shaped Aisha’s Elon experience.

“I would rate my periclean experience as being of high importance. The friendships I’ve made have been life changing. I would have never probably had those opportunities without periclean- to go live in a place like Jamkhed, India, in a rural village, and just experience the unexpected rewards and challenges of the ability to go so far away from what I had known.. And keep in mind I went to India after I had studied abroad in China. When I got to India, I was like wow, I didn’t think my abroad experience could be any more more different from experiences in the U.S. That being said,  that experience was unparalleled. I furthered my ability to work with those who are different and learned how to synthesize a lot of information and communicate that to different audiences in a way that’s compelling. I had a lot of great experiences at Elon, but Periclean and two others were equally the most amazing. Studying abroad in China, serving as the Student Program Coordinator for the Diversity Emerging Education Program and working with CRHP in India. Everything worked together: studying abroad, diversity education, periclean- all of them contributed to each other.”

She also states that Periclean is still a source of inspiration.

“A lot of what I do now is directly inspired by periclean. I am currently on the board for the periclean fellowship. I work with peers to read over applications,  assess and choose the fellow for the next year. I’ve also recommended current students for the program.. More generally, I was already an open-minded person, but am now constantly trying to see how I can learn more about that which is different around me. Whether that’s going to Mexico City in a couple of weeks, or something else, I’m always looking for ways to get outside my norm and engage in communities.” But in ways beyond the professional and academic realm, Aisha feels she has been changed.

“Periclean has affected me on every level. At work, I am collaborating with people of different backgrounds and ages, which is very similar to my experience in periclean- we all came with different skills and mindsets. That helped me learn to leverage people’s’ skills in group projects. In my job, I lead events and meetings, and I have to consider different perspectives. Every day I think about how my class  was able to be successful in working together to accomplish one common goal. I am continuing to improve my communication skills, articulating information to different and multiple audiences. On a personal level, Periclean reinstilled, and made my light brighter; regarding my empathy and desire to put myself in others shoes, and see where they are right, instead of wrong.”

Aisha says the program even changed her on a day-to-day level.

“Periclean taught me to try to meet people where they are, understand the human experience from a bigger picture, as you have no clue what it is like to be anyone else. I am trying to be more cognizant of the way that I talk to people, and be aware of my privilege in relation to those with whom I interact. That goes a long way, because no one is asking me to apologize for my privilege, but just be aware of it. My job is building relationships, and periclean has served me well in the way I am able to connect with people on a personal and professional level.”

Regarding the class of 2016’s alumni pledge, Aisha is in agreement.

“I think it’s a good idea- I think that compelling people to give and donate is always really tricky and a sensitive subject. It’s difficult for people to understand the value of money in a real context. Having served  on the Board of Trustees, I understand the power of monetary donations and it’s impact on an institution or program, in a way that I would have never understood it before. As a graduate, everyone is asking you for money, so it it is important  to connect the personal value and impact of giving, and in this case, specifically to Periclean. It’s not just the money, but the personal sacrifice. I had studied abroad and interned abroad before periclean, and it wasn’t easy. Giving people the opportunity to make an impact is great. Alumni have the power and ability to pave the way. I would also say that giving people varying gift levels is a great option, as well as specifically naming where that gift is going, so alums  can see its impact.”

When asked about her personal contribution to Periclean, Aisha replied: “I am just setting up my payment with periclean. It’s been quite a transition for me in the past year, deciding how and what I can give money to. I am trying to be intentional about where I can put my money. I believe that the periclean foundation can do wonders; from a big picture perspective it can do more than any one class can. You have current partnerships, you have family and friends, you have alums; the foundation is a wonderful way to bring everyone together.”

Aisha’s story might seem ideal, but she professes its something all Elon students can mimic. Her advice for current Pericleans? “Seek first to understand, than to be understood.”

This quote goes a long way, because with your cohort, everyone just wants their opinion heard. The listening is where you learn the most; you learn the least by feeling understood. Also, think within the mindset of working with and not for. Periclean is a partnership, not a charity. You are not doing something for someone because you have something they don’t; you are doing something with them, because you have the privilege to do so. We call them our partners for a reason. Lastly, just take risks. Have so much fun, you are in this environment that allows you to fail and fall, and it’s so much harder to replicate the periclean experience in real life where everyone has different ideas and such big ideas. You have way less to lose in college than when you are out of it. Don’t dim the momentum you have,” Aisha says.

This entry was posted in Partners-All Classes. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.