Beyond the Ball

Akil Mitchell Awarded Prestigious Presidential Internship

At 6’8”, fourth-year sociology major Akil Mitchell is a commanding presence. This month, as he begins a prestigious student internship in the Office of the President, he has reason to stand a little taller. A leading scorer on the U.Va. Men’s Basketball Team, Mitchell was named to the All-ACC third team for his performance during the 2012-2013 season after starting in a school-record 35 games. As impressive as he is on the court, Mitchell’s efforts in the classroom won him the opportunity to work alongside President Teresa Sullivan.
 
President Sullivan initiated the program of sociology student internships four years ago with the goal of providing students with a world-class experience in higher education while introducing them to opportunities for diverse career paths and professional positions. A sociologist herself, Sullivan had a similar experience when she interned in the office of Michigan State University President Clifton Wharton soon after her college graduation in 1970. “These internships allow students to gain work experience in the president’s office, while my colleagues and I benefit greatly from having them with us for a semester,” Sullivan said. “Akil brings the unique perspective of a student-athlete, which will enrich the experience for everyone involved.” Mitchell, along with fellow fourth-years Laura Gaul, Emily Renda, and Alexandra Valdez, was nominated by a sociology faculty member and selected for the internship program after a competitive application and interview process.
 
For Mitchell, applying for and being awarded one of the prestigious internships was something he cherishes: a new experience. “I was taking a class called Love, Sex, and Sociology with Professor Allison Pugh,” he said. “She is an amazing teacher, and based on some of the things she saw in our conversations and in the questions that I raised in class, she thought that it would be a great opportunity for me.” At the urging of Professor Pugh, Mitchell submitted his resume and an essay outlining his interest in sociology and why his background prepared him for taking on the internship. Mitchell then went through three rounds of interviews, including a final stop with Nancy Rivers, Sullivan’s Chief of Staff. “Akil impressed our search committee with his eagerness to take on another leadership commitment while balancing the demands and expectations facing student-athletes,” Rivers said. “His drive to excel and to get the most out of the U.Va. experience was impressive.”
 
Mitchell and his fellow interns begin their work in the President’s office this month. The interns will work in three different presidential areas: strategic planning, the Board of Visitors Office, and the Office of Major Events. The internship, which takes place during the spring semester, includes a 3-credit course that requires 10-15 hours each week working directly in the president’s office in addition to completing a research paper under the guidance of President Sullivan. Sociology professor Katya Makarova, who oversees the academic component of the internship, assigns additional readings, hosts structured discussions, and guides oral and written research presentations.
 
Thinking about his role as an intern and looking back at his time on Grounds, Mitchell is grateful for the many opportunities he has had to try new things. “What I love most about the University is its traditions,” he said. “There are so many great people here, and I have had the opportunity to get involved in a lot of things that student-athletes often don’t have the opportunity to be involved in. Every time I walk through Grounds I meet someone new who has unique passions and interests. If anything, I will remember my experience here for the great people I met along the way.”