In just the past year, Notre Dame junior Jasmine Mitchell has studied in Dublin, London, and Washington, D.C.
“Notre Dame has pushed me to expand my horizons, and given me the opportunity to push beyond my own context,” Mitchell said.
In each location she’s traveled to, Mitchell has studied how localities are addressing affordable housing, and she hopes to eventually bring innovative solutions back to urban communities in the United States. Because no matter how far her travels have taken her, she’s never lost sight of the problems facing her home community of Atlanta.
By using her diverse academic interests — American studies, business economics, and public policy — to study this pressing issue, she’s striving to make the difference that others have failed to.
“Being raised in Georgia, seeing the issues of gentrification, food insecurity, things like that, I've always been like, ‘This is wrong, this is not OK,’” she said. “No one's addressing it now, but give me some time — I'll get there.”
“Being raised in Georgia, seeing the issues of gentrification, food insecurity, things like that, I've always been like, ‘This is wrong, this is not OK.’ No one's addressing it now, but give me some time — I'll get there.”
The draw of community
Mitchell first heard about Notre Dame while browsing through the list of institutions partnering with QuestBridge, a scholarship program that matches low-income and first-generation students with universities. As Mitchell began to research the culture at Notre Dame, the strong community became evident almost immediately.
“As a first-generation student, I knew I wouldn't know anything about college, and I knew I needed that strong backbone,” Mitchell said.
She found support in the QuestBridge community and the AnBryce Scholars Initiative, a program offering mentorship to first-generation students. Eventually, Mitchell became part of this backbone for others — she served on the board of 1stGND, a community for first-generation students, and she performed in Show Some Skin, an annual production of student monologues highlighting marginalized voices and experiences on campus.
Mitchell was also drawn to Notre Dame’s commitment to being a force for good in the world — and though her academic passions evolved over time, she always kept this mindset at the center. She entered her first year as an intended finance major, inspired by the importance of financial literacy and a few high school internships in consulting and finance at The Intersect Group, FTI Consulting, and the USPS. Mitchell registered for Introduction to American Studies solely to satisfy the university’s history requirement, but the class with Associate Professor Jason Ruiz quickly sparked a deep love for the discipline.
“Every class, I was super excited to get there,” Mitchell said. “I loved the discussions, our readings. I found myself talking to my friends like every day about what we learned, what we talked about, and all the readings that we did.”
Mitchell was fascinated by American studies’ exploration of how identity shapes perceptions and realities, delving enthusiastically into the breadth of the department’s course offerings.
“American studies pushed me to think about identity in a different way,” she said, “and it's also helped me to consider the certain systems within society and how they're structured, and how we can change them and make them better for everyone.”
Opening doors to the world
Growing up in Atlanta, Mitchell had seen how these systems of power affected urban communities, particularly regarding the lack of affordable housing. Mitchell’s passion for this issue led her to add minors in the Hesburgh Program in Public Service and business economics, building practical skills needed to confront this problem.
Then, she turned her knowledge and skillset into action when she went abroad. After taking a trip to Ireland over spring break with her fellow AnBryce students, she was inspired to return to the country for a longer exploration. She applied for Notre Dame’s Irish Internship Program, which connects students with summer internships and research opportunities in Ireland.
Mitchell spent eight weeks in Dublin researching how affordable housing for single individuals is impacted by financialization (how housing is seen as an economic opportunity rather than a right).
“Notre Dame has impacted me by opening doors to the world,” Mitchell said. “Coming to Notre Dame, I didn't know that I was going to study abroad. It was always a dream.”
Mitchell utilized research databases at the National Library of Ireland and spoke with professors at University College Dublin and Trinity College to learn about how the country was addressing its housing crisis. On top of the academic resources, some of the best research came from the everyday conversations Mitchell had by living amongst the people of Dublin.
“Just being able to walk up to people in Ireland and ask them what they think — it was a really personal experience to talk to people about the issues that they care about, the current housing crisis, and how they're affected,” Mitchell said.
She’s planning to expand this analysis into her senior thesis next year, applying lessons from Ireland to the situation in the United States.
After the support she received from the University’s Dublin Global Gateway, Mitchell was eager to take advantage of the opportunities at another of the Global Gateways, leading her to study abroad in London in the fall of 2022. She built on her past research experiences by taking a class called At Home with the Victorians, which focused on housing in London throughout history.
“It was really interesting seeing how housing changed and how support for affordable housing kind of evolved,” Mitchell said. “So that really gave me another perspective in the context of the UK.”
A foundation for every path
Mitchell is now gathering a new point of view through the Washington Program, where she’s spent the semester interning at the Neighborhood Development Company, a real estate development company that focuses on creating affordable housing for the D.C. community. Mitchell has been assisting with researching, grant-writing, and more for the organization, giving her hands-on experience to complement her research and academic exploration of housing solutions.
Her exposure to D.C. has been invaluable, she said, as she plans to work in real estate development, urban planning, or public policy with the goal of creating affordable housing and helping agencies engage with the communities they serve.
To Mitchell, her liberal arts education — specifically the exploration of identity through the humanities — is integral to her future career destinations.
“It's embedded in the business, it's embedded in policy,” Mitchell said. “In business, you use identity to decide how you advertise yourself, what your brand is, and what your values are. In policy, you’re asking questions about how you make policies that support the identities in your community.”
No matter which sectors she enters across her career, the College of Arts and Letters has prepared Mitchell with a spread of transferable skills — from critical thinking, communication, and more — that she can leverage across every opportunity.
“A liberal arts education,” she said, “allows you to build very foundational skills that can really be applicable to anything that you want to do.”
“A liberal arts education allows you to build very foundational skills that can really be applicable to anything that you want to do.”
Originally published by al.nd.edu on April 10, 2023.at