Michelle Mitchell ’06
by Margy Brooks Reagan ’78
Michelle Mitchell ’06 believes in limitless possibilities. “Do not let anything or anyone stop you,” she says, and using this mantra as her guide, this summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa graduate from Trinity, with a degree in political science and economics, has carved out a niche full of possibilities for herself in international law. As the recipient of the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship for Graduate and Professional Studies, her education at Georgetown University Law School was fully funded. Mitchell opted for the challenges of the innovative program’s Curriculum B, which emphasizes the connection between law and other disciplines, namely economics, philosophy, history and political science. Mitchell excelled in her law studies, she competed in the Greenhalgh Competition, was selected for the Barrister’s Council-Mock Trial Division and served on the American Trial Lawyer’s Association Trial Team. She was also a clinical student in the Federal Legislative and Administrative Law Clinic where she advocated for issues related to workplace flexibility.
Mitchell’s interest in international affairs began as an undergraduate at Trinity when she served as a diplomat on a 17-day long international mission on diplomacy to the People’s Republic of China in 2005. Since her time in China, Mitchell wanted to “get back into the action” and return overseas. While at Georgetown, she attended a student forum, whereupon hearing a fellow student speak about his study abroad experience in South Africa, Mitchell felt compelled to study law at the University of Cape Town. Undeterred by warnings issued from the U.S. Department of State concerning the outbreak of violence in South Africa in the months leading up to her departure in the fall of 2008, Mitchell forged ahead with her plans to study in Cape Town.
In the Rainbow Nation, safety was a luxury and the “simple” necessities of life such as electricity, internet access and transportation were complicated. For some, these inconveniences may have proved challenging; however, Mitchell embraced this time in South Africa as both a great learning and cultural experience. In addition to her university classes, taught by renowned legal scholars, Mitchell joined a team of students sponsored by the Students’ Health and Welfare Centers Organization, who served as volunteers at St. George’s Home for Girls in Wynberg. This home is the only residential care facility in the Wynberg District which provides a safe haven for 40 girls who are abused, abandoned, neglected or orphaned. Although the facility has limited resources for the volunteers, Mitchell remained committed to serve as a mentor for these girls who lacked the support of a strong family structure. This volunteer opportunity enriched her cultural experience in Cape Town. Before leaving South Africa, Mitchell’s mother visited her, and together they toured Zambia and Zimbabwe and went on a safari.
Upon returning to Georgetown, Mitchell completed her final semester, took the bar exam, and in celebration of passing the exam, travelled to India for a month with a brief visit to Thailand. In India, she traveled from the north in the Himalayas, seeing Delhi and the Taj Mahal, east to Varanasi and the Ganges River, then through the southern backwaters of Kerala; and finally to the bustling streets of Mumbai. Upon her return, Mitchell became an associate in the international trade group with Hughes, Hubbard and Reed, LLP.
Mitchell has immersed herself in the demanding, fast-paced work environment of a law firm, and is presently focusing on her career and embracing the challenges and opportunities in international law. In addition to her professional pursuits, she continues mentoring young women, and because of her commitment to Trinity, one of the students mentored by Mitchell will attend Trinity in the fall.
When asked how this international experience has impacted her life, Mitchell remarked, “Life is filled with defining moments – for me these moments have arisen when I’ve stepped outside of my comfort zone and allowed myself to experience something extraordinary. Traveling, experiencing different cultures and adapting to new ways of life gives you a broader, deeper understanding of the way the world works. The more I see and learn – the more I realize that there is so much more!” As a message for young women today, Mitchell shared, “Have no limits. Don’t let anything or anyone curb your enthusiasm and optimism. Self-confidence is key.” Mitchell looks forward to more international adventures, and Trinity will travel with her.