Going Places

Fresh off a Shansi Fellowship in Japan, former East Asian studies major Jasmine Mitchell turns her focus to a new fellowship—and a role with the State Department.

October 11, 2023

Henry Hicks IV ’21

Jasmine Mitchell.
Photo credit: courtesy of Jasmine Mitchell

Jasmine Mitchell knew a few things she wanted out of college, though she wasn’t sure how she would get them: She wanted to see the world, and she wanted to make a difference in it.

“While studying abroad had always been a dream of mine, it wasn't financially feasible,” she recalls thinking.

That changed through her experience at Oberlin, where she completed a degree in East Asian studies in 2021 and devoted the next two years to a cultural exchange as a Shansi Fellow in Japan.

Mitchell’s practicum course in Oberlin’s Politics Department opened her eyes to a career in the Foreign Service. That’s also when she learned more about Shansi and the ways it could help her get a foothold abroad.

“The Shansi Fellowship was one of the reasons I chose Oberlin,” she says.

Founded in 1908, Oberlin Shansi provides opportunities for new and recent graduates to teach English in Asia in collaboration with local universities, NGOs, and other organizations. Shansi traces its roots even further—to the Oberlin students who served as missionaries in China in the late 19th century.

“Considering my career ambitions, the Shansi Fellowship provided me with a unique chance to enhance my cross-cultural communication skills, adapt to and connect with people from diverse backgrounds, navigate unfamiliar situations, and build resilience,” Mitchell says. It also encouraged her to deeply consider notions of national identity, engage in cultural exchanges, and lead students in their understanding of the U.S. 

“Living and working at the Afrikan Heritage House helped me solidify my commitment to pursuing a career in the Foreign Service.”

This fall, Mitchell begins a new chapter: She was selected for a prestigious Thomas R. Pickering Fellowship, which supports her pursuit of a master’s degree in Asian studies at the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. It also offers the unique opportunity to serve in the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Service program. 

“Being selected to be a Pickering Fellow, in short, is a dream come true,” says Mitchell, a resident of Herndon, Virginia.

“These amazing experiences as a Shansi Fellow inspired me to pursue the Pickering Fellowship as a means to continue my dedication to diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in international affairs.”

Mitchell credits her Oberlin experience—including the support of faculty mentors such as Candice Raynor in Africana studies and education studies—with preparing her for both Shansi and Pickering. Her impressive tally of on-campus experiences includes serving as a student representative for the Presidential Initiative on Racial Equity and Diversity; as vice chair of  student senate; lead organizer for campus-wide co-curricular events such as Kumba Week, Kwanzaa Celebration, and Black History Month programming; and, notably, as program assistant and resident assistant at Afrikan Heritage House, the on-campus program house designated as a safe space for students of the African diaspora.

“These experiences deepened my appreciation for the power of inclusive and diverse environments in shaping meaningful connections and driving positive change,” she says.

“Living and working at the Afrikan Heritage House helped me solidify my commitment to pursuing a career in the Foreign Service, where I can continue to promote these values on a global scale.

“Whether it’s through diplomatic negotiations, cultural exchanges, or policy initiatives, I want to actively work toward creating a more inclusive and cooperative international community,” Mitchell says. “I am deeply committed to promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility within the field, and the Pickering Fellowship serves as a powerful catalyst to help me achieve this vision.”

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