Ashley Mitchell '11, alumna

When she first arrived at Princeton, Ashley Mitchell felt a bit intimidated. “All of a sudden, I was surrounded by so many smart and accomplished people," she recalls. "I worried that I would not fit in, so I planned to sign up for classes I had deemed ‘safe’ in an attempt to quell my anxiety.”

Her academic adviser encouraged Mitchell to step outside her comfort zone and “try something new.” She took his advice and every semester enrolled in at least one class outside her usual area of interest. “I had some wonderful experiences as a result,” she says.

After graduating, Mitchell went to work at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice in Newark, N.J. The position became available to her through the Puttkammer Fellowship program offered by Princeton's Pace Center for Civic Engagement. The institute is a research and advocacy organization that identifies, analyzes and addresses issues that cause social and economic disparities.

She majored in politics with an emphasis on American politics and earned a certificate in American studies. “My favorite class was 'Civil Liberties' taught by Professor Robbie George,” Mitchell says. “I also had the privilege of being in Professor George’s precept. He is a well-known conservative scholar, and my liberal viewpoints were constantly being challenged — he made me reconsider some ideas that I had previously considered unassailably true.”

Not surprisingly, many of Mitchell’s extracurricular activities had a political focus. She was publisher of the Princeton Progressive Nation, a student publication that promotes liberal to moderate political thought. She also was a member of the Student Groups Recognition Committee, which operates under the auspices of the Undergraduate Student Government to aid new student-run groups. She was active with the College Democrats and served on the NJ College Democrats state board as secretary.

As a member of Rockefeller (Rocky) College, she lived in Witherspoon Hall — once home to Woodrow Wilson — during her freshman and sophomore years. “I loved living in Rocky,” she says. “Most of its dormitories were built in the Gothic style, so it felt like a truly ‘Princeton’ college.”