Student Spotlight: Alexis Mitchell
By Tony Scott

headshotStudent Alexis Mitchell plans to be an international climate policy maker.

After Alexis Mitchell completes her Bachelor of Science degree in meteorology this spring, she plans to pursue both a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in climate policy, with the ultimate goal of becoming an international climate policy maker. 

While Mitchell is working hard to make those goals a reality, she has also had a helping hand from donors who have generously given to support scholarships. 

“After being admitted into NIU, I found out that I received a merit scholarship that covered about 75% of the cost of tuition,” she said. “This scholarship honestly determined that I would be going to NIU. Had it not been for the personalized nature of my tours and the significant coverage from my merit scholarship, I probably wouldn’t have attended a four-year university right out of high school.”

Mitchell has also applied for several departmental scholarships available exclusively to meteorology majors.

“Last year, I was lucky enough to have received the Amy Gustafson Seely Memorial Meteorology Scholarship as a junior,” she said. “This was an application-based scholarship for women in meteorology with financial need and academic merit. This scholarship helped me out in a significant way, as I was able to pay off an entire loan that I used to attend NIU.”

Receiving the Gustafson Seely Scholarship was a moment of significant pride for her, and she said receiving it made her realize she was on the right track academically.

“I have worked so hard to achieve my goals, but I have never sought financial validation. To see that I actually deserved this award was a huge help financially, but it reminded me that this is exactly what I was supposed to do,” she said.

Mitchell was raised in suburban Des Plaines, Illinois, near O’Hare International Airport. She is the oldest of three children and has two brothers. Although both of her parents attended college, they did not finish their degrees. Her mother works as a senior business operations analyst for Kite Realty Group, while her father is a building engineer at the University of Chicago. Mitchell aspires to be the first in her family to earn a four-year college degree.

Mitchell began looking into colleges by researching the best meteorology programs in the U.S. She found that NIU ranked in the top 10 in 2020. 

“During the department tour I was able to meet with the department chair and discuss my career and research goals,” she said. “This was honestly the best thing that I could have done because the department chair personalized my visit to ensure that it catered to what I wanted.”

She describes herself as “quite the involved individual” on campus, belonging to a number of organizations and working on campus.

“I have two different forms of on-campus employment: I am a Northern Ambassador Student Coordinator and a Community Advisor (CA) in the RecWell Living Learning Community at Stevenson Towers,” she said. “These may be forms of employment, but I have learned a lot through my involvement in these organizations.”

She is also a member of the NIU student chapter of the American Meteorological Society (AMS), and in her junior year was elected vice president of the chapter’s executive board. 

“I also partnered with a fellow AMS board member to co-found the AMS-lead academic outreach group, AMS on Wheels,” she said. “This organization travels through Northern Illinois to introduce grade school students to meteorology, through presentations that connect to their science and social studies curriculum. To date, we have been featured at six different school districts, engaged with over 400 students, and inspired dozens to consider the field of meteorology.”

Mitchell loves being a student at NIU, celebrating its diversity and exploring campus.

“This is probably no surprise, but one of my favorite things about NIU is my department, Earth, Atmosphere and Environment (EAE),” she said. “This is a very applied program so I can learn how to apply everything that I learn while I’m learning it, making my education that much richer while at NIU. Outside of my department, I love the fact that NIU is as diverse as it is. I likely wouldn’t have some of the friends that I currently have if it weren’t for the diversity of the campus. My favorite places to study are the Holmes Student Center and the Founders Memorial Library. Both locations allow me to grab something to eat and pick a spot with the perfect amount of white noise to ensure my productivity.”

Outside of academics, Mitchell enjoys participating in various intramural sports, including being a member of the NIU Women’s Volleyball Club for two years.

“As the CA for the RecWell Community, I am able to participate in intramurals free of charge; I have participated in softball, sand volleyball, and indoor volleyball intramurals,” she said. “These have been great ways to stay in shape and to further develop the community on my residence hall floor.”

Mitchell encourages alumni and others to give back to NIU, and thanks those who have been generous enough to do so.

“For those considering donating to student scholarships, please do,” she said. “There are a lot of students out there, like me, who have the passion and desire to further their education but may not have the financial support necessary to make those dreams a reality. If it weren’t for the merit scholarships that I received upon admission, I wouldn’t have been able to attend a university out of high school. Receiving the department scholarship as a junior reinforced my plan and financial ability to pursue higher education in the form of a graduate degree.”