HATTIESBURG, MS (THE UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI) - Student Government Association (SGA) President Kasey Mitchell will soon be able to add the title "world traveler" to her list of accomplishments during her tenure at The University of Southern Mississippi.
Mitchell, a senior from Picayune, Miss., is one of only 45 SGA presidents from across the United States selected to travel to Russia in March as part of the Open World Leadership Center's Kremlin Fellows program. Mitchell, the only Mississippian selected, was nominated by U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss. Wicker is one of the so-called founding fathers of Open World Leadership. The organization is a federal agency within the Library of Congress. It was begun as a means for Russian leaders to witness first-hand the workings of the American government, and is now a reciprocal program with student leaders making the trek to foreign soil.
"I am so excited, I can't believe this," exclaimed Mitchell. "It's a great opportunity to represent this university and the state of Mississippi."
"Kasey has demonstrated qualities that are essential to leadership, and she will represent Mississippi well," said Wicker. "This is an important opportunity for Kasey and students from around the country to learn more about the complex relationship between the United States and Russia. Developing an understanding of our increasing global interconnectedness is critical for our future leaders."
The Russians government looks to build an open dialogue with future American leaders, explained Chang Suh who is the senior advisor at the Open World Leadership Center. He explained his Russian counterparts are aware that former presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Regan and Bill Clinton were all campus leaders during their college careers. For that reason they requested students visit their country to build an understanding of their government's inner workings.
"This is the second year in which American students will travel to Russia, while Russian leaders have been coming to the United States for the past 11 years," said Suh. "We have an alumni association of 17,000 Russians who have come to America. Kasey Mitchell is one of only 60 Americans in two years who have the opportunity to meet Russian government leaders, civil rights leaders, civic leaders and student leaders."
Mitchell's new adventure began with a trip to Washington, D.C., where she met the other student leaders in her Fellows class. She explains the Washington trip was just as important to her as the Russian trip because she was able to network with her contemporaries from across the country. She believes it is all a part of the "big picture" of her life.
"Being able to experience Russia, to meet with government officials and student leaders, to network and realize we are not all in individual bubbles, that's important," she declared. "When you have a goal and an opportunity to meet that goal you just jump in, and I'm jumping in," she said with a smile.
While excited about the trip and the opportunities ahead, Mitchell said it's important to be humble, to remember where she came from and where she wants to be. After her expected May graduation from Southern Miss, she is looking to enter the Mississippi College School of Law.