Southern Miss Student Government President Picked for Russian Visit

Published 1:23 am Sunday, February 13, 2011

Student Government Association President Kasey Mitchell soon will be able to add “world traveler” to her list of accomplishments as a student at The University of Southern Mississippi.

Mitchell, a senior from Picayune, is one of 45 SGA presidents in 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. Open World Leadership 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 traveling overseas.

“I am so excited, I can’t believe this,” said Mitchell. “It’s a great opportunity to represent this university and the state of Mississippi.”

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“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 Russian government looks to build an open dialogue with future American leaders, said Chang Suh, senior advisor at the Open World Leadership Center. He said his Russian counterparts are aware that former presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan 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 adventure began with a trip to Washington, D.C., where she met other student leaders in her Fellows class. She said the Washington trip was as important to her as the Russian trip because she was able to network with contemporaries from across the country. She said 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 said. “When you have a goal and an opportunity to meet that goal you just jump in, and I’m jumping in.”

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 plans enter Mississippi College School of Law.