2019 SOC Woman of the Year: Jozette Allah-Mensah '19

The only information I knew about Jozette Allah-Mensah going into the interview was that she was wearing a large grey sweater. I walked into Starbucks with an open slate, ready to be dazzled and impressed by yet again one of Her Campus’ fabulous women of the year. I can honestly say I was not disappointed.

As a senior studying Journalism with a minor in Marketing, Allah-Mensah focuses on the interconnectedness of people through communication. “I believe in ripple effects, I believe world change isn’t something abstract, it starts small and I want to use my voice for that. You shouldn't be afraid of using your voice. Speak the truth. There are so many pressing issues of our time like climate change and immigration and we need to be able to speak up,” she says.

Allah-Mensah has a cheerful disposition, coupled with bright and intelligent eyes, and a genuine enthusiasm for communications. “I don’t want to stay stagnant. I want to keep moving,” Allah-Mensah remarked about herself when she was describing where -- and who -- she wants to be. This drive to stand out, to move forward and push boundaries, sculpts an eclectic and charming SOC Woman of the Year.

Her Campus at American University: As someone who goes to AU, and especially as one of our Women of the Year, you have probably been involved in a lot. What are some of the thing you do on campus?

Jozette Allah-Mensah: I’ve had five job on campus. I started the Odyssey my sophomore year and then became the managing editor and then I also did DPA, choir and AU Players where I performed for Nostalgia Night and I am currently a peer facilitator for AUx and a peer ambassador and tour guide. I also work in SOC and am an ambassador for my study abroad program in Greece.

HCAU: A lot of those activities, like AUx and ambassadors, are about guiding and leading people. What drew you to those positions?

JAM: As an AU ambassador, I try to help people by telling them my story, by helping them along. I was in Texas last week talking to admitted students a week ago. I tell parents and students, someone did this for me and I’m just trying to give back to you. I’m an open source. I was on an overnight before my freshman year when I was admitted, and I still remember that day. Students will come back and tell me that I was the reason they chose AU and they remember me from the tour, and that is just so impactful.

HCAU: What’s some of the advice you like to give prospective students?

JAM: I always say, if AU’s not the place for you, you’ll end up where you need to be. And that’s exactly what happened to me. My second choice became my first choice and I’m so thankful to God for that. I truly believe everything works out the way it needs to be and this is just a testament to that.

HCAU: With internships and jobs and everything else you have going on, what keeps you motivated?

JAM: Being a child of an immigrant is in of itself a motivation, my parents came here from Ghana with nothing and had to start from the beginning. As their kids, we had to create our own legacy in America and make sure that seed grows and that garden continues to bloom. Having parents who sacrificed everything for people they didn’t even know, because you really don’t know who your kids will be, is really humbling and I am so grateful. They’ve gone through a lot, especially my mom, so we want to be the fruit of the labor. The fact that they didn’t give up their life in vein. I’m the first in my line to come to D.C. and graduate. I have a long lineage in the West Coast of Africa and I have to live up to that and to something new.

HCAU: With your upbringing as a child of immigrants, how do you think that has shaped you into being the person you are today?

JAM: My entire life people have helped me. My parents are divorced and my mom’s household is pretty low income. When her parents died, she couldn’t go back because she didn’t have papers. We were evicted from our apartment, there were times when our lights were off. But there was always someone to help us, whether an aunt or uncle or cousin or friend or someone from church. That’s what I've been surrounded by. I wasn’t taught to help, that’s something that I was just surrounded by so it comes naturally to me.

HCAU: Who are some of the women who inspire you?

JAM: I draw inspiration from my mom. She is a courageous and faithful person and draws all her strength from her faith which has trickled down into all of her children. She always has a way.

I also draw inspiration from Yaa Asantewaa. She was part of the Ashanti empire, in what is now modern day Ghana. It was in the 16th country, when everything was empires. She was the only person who stood up in the face of war and led a battle. In history, you elevate some people and other you don’t. She’s someone I really admire in history.

HCAU: As someone who is graduating, what have you learned since during your time at AU?

JAM: Something that I have had to work on is communication. Being kind and being submissive is not synonymous. When I came to AU, I was not cognizant of a lot of things. I came from a very diverse town but that doesn’t mean you know everything, and I didn’t. And I’ve grown so much because of AU’s atmosphere. I had to be open to understanding the world around me. And going out of the country, too. There are so many different standpoints in different cultures, communication is just so multifaceted. I really had to learn and teach myself how to eradicate assumptions and get at the heart of what communication really is and use that in everyday life.

HCAU: You mention your time abroad in Greece quite a bit. Why was that such a meaningful experience to you?

JAM: When I decided to go to Greece, I never left the country before. Something in my head was like: go. I didn’t have a passport or visa, it was a total worldwind. It was affordable. I never even went on a plane before but it turned into one of the most incredible times of my life. It is crazy to me that I now have friends across the ocean. They all just turned into my family, people were so welcoming and it was such a beautiful country. People take from Greece, but they don’t really give. And Greece has given so much and it was so special to be there. There were hard, sad parts but at the end of the day the entire thing felt unreal. I was with little kids across the ocean, but they were still kids. We had this language barrier, but I didn’t feel that.

Allah-Mensah built her life around exploring and helping others and, as the SOC commencement speaker, it is fitting that she is sending a group of terrified and exciting graduates -- me being one of them -- off on a journey of self-exploration and discovery.

“It’s all moment by moment. Be open to living and adapting and lean into the discomfort. I leaned into the discomfort by being a tour guide, by jumping into a plane for the first time and flying half way across the world," Allah-Mensah advised. "It will bring you so many experiences that you will never, ever be able to forget in your life. You have one life, and it is so cliche but it is so true. Doing something that scares you and being uncomfortable exposes you to so many amazing things.”

 

Photo Credit: Halle Jaymes