Georgia Tech Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts

I Am Liberal Arts! Undergraduate Profiles

Katherine Mitchell- Public Policy

My Name: Katherine Mitchell - Public Policy

My Major: Public Policy

My Minor: Leadership Studies

My Hometown: McDonough, Georgia

I am indeed Patriotic.

It comes naturally.  I am the granddaughter of a Vietnam vet, the daughter of an Iraqi vet, and the sister of a soldier.  My family has a long history within the United States that is similar to many southern Blacks; therefore, I have witnessed firsthand how much can improve from generation to generation.  My grandfather quit school so he could work and help his family, my father was the first person in his family to graduate from college, and I’m going into my second year. Only in America!

I have found a community.

I’m in the Honors Program.  It has offered an amazing sense of community that I have very much needed in my career here at Georgia Tech. My first year, I lived in a residence hall with all other Honors Program students, and I enjoyed being able to see my classmates and get to know them more outside of a classroom setting. I also enjoy taking Honors Program courses, because they are smaller, more personalized, and are also discussion-based. These classes have allowed me to practice articulating my opinions while being receptive to those of others.

I was looking for a major that applied my two interests.

I love government and history, and I didn’t want a major where I just studied a particular topic but did not know how to use my knowledge in the “real world.”  The Public Policy program does a good job of marrying lectures with practice.  For example, every student is required to complete an internship and a "taskforce," which is when a group of students are consultants for a person, business, or non-profit organization.  I feel like this major is preparing me for life outside of Georgia Tech; and in the end, my goal is to use my degree to be successful.

I am not lost in the crowd or just a number in the Ivan Allen College.

Georgia Tech is a big school, but being in the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts allows me to personalize my education. I feel like a part of a community rather than just a student id number.  This aspect of IAC weighed heavily on my decision to come to Georgia Tech.  Schools that are known for liberal arts would offer an excellent education, but the sense of community and the personalized college experience would be lacking.  Here, I get the best of both worlds.  My professors are awesome!  They conduct award-winning research, have worked in the field for years, and are always willing to share their infinite wisdom.

My classes have influenced my perspectives of my field and my society.

I took “Utopia in Rhetoric and Reality” my first semester of freshman year.  We read novels about utopias and dystopias, created our own utopia, and even went on a field trip to a community that was modeled after a utopia.  Through satire, the authors of the novels we read forced me to reexamine seemingly simple concepts like fairness and progress. As a policy person, my goal is to make society a little more perfect.  I didn’t know it at the time, but this class prepared me for my policy courses by showing me the many dimensions of good and bad and right and wrong. 

Professor Aaron Santesso was my English professor freshman year.  I appreciated Professor Santesso because he kept it real.  He didn’t sugar coat things, but he was not rude either.  If my paper wasn’t up to his standards, he would tell me and suggest ways I could improve.  He was approachable and passionate about his field of study.   Sometimes we would get off topic and discuss his disdain for “Humans vs. Zombies” or his love of zoos.  He even surprised me when he announced we were going on a field trip.  I thought field trips were a thing of my grade school past, but that experience made the subject of our course tangible.  While I studied utopias and dystopias in Professor Santesso’s class, I also learned the importance of interacting with professors as fellow humans instead of someone who is grading and judging you.  If you immerse yourself in the topic, the knowledge and the good grade will come.

I have an influence on national education at the congressional level.

During summer 2012, I had the opportunity to intern with Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights icon and the last living speaker from the March on Washington.  I expected to be brewing coffee and making copies for the full-time employees, but I completely underestimated the duties of a congressional intern. 

I learned so much about the legislative process, policy implications, and Washington politics in general.  I attended briefings and events on behalf of the Congressman, sat in and took notes on meetings between Congressman Lewis and interest groups, and researched and co-authored legislation. 

My main issue area is education; therefore, I researched and co-authored a bill that will create a national math competition and extracurricular math opportunities for underrepresented minorities.  I also worked on a digital literacy bill that will help to bridge the digital divide in low-income communities.  By the end of the summer, I had narrowed down my focus to STEM education, which is perfect for a policy person studying at Georgia Tech!

Thanks to this internship, I was bitten by the political bug.  It wasn’t all work and no play, though.  I met some awesome celebrities, including Stephen Colbert of the Colbert Report, Dominique Wilkins of the Atlanta Hawks, and President Clinton and it was great to be right in the middle of everything you see on TV and learn about at school!  Being near the movers and shakers of our national’s capital, has made my goal of being a member of Congress seem more possible.

Its great to be a student in a city that is an icon of the 21st century.

Atlanta merges the future with the past.  Georgia Tech is the perfect example of this.  Georgia Tech was founded in the 19th century and is now a leader in the 21stcentury’s technology driven world. This city has such a rich history.  She was integral in the civil rights movement and is now a Mecca for startup businesses, ambitious college students, and culture enthusiasts.   It’s amazing to see how much progress the city has made since its inception.  I can’t wait to see where Atlanta and Georgia Tech will be in the future!

For questions about students featured, photography, or to recommend a new undergraduate profile, contact Elizabeth Miller

Click on the videos below to see Katherine talk about:

  • The honors program at Georgia Tech 
  • The unique internship opportunities she has taken advantage of through the Ivan Allen College
  • Her favorite Public Policy class 

(Click video to play; double-click to watch fullscreen)

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