Even before her first day of classes at Iowa State, Mia Kawamitsu (’24 journalism and mass communication, international studies) sought out leads to write a future story. Her story, that is. The summer before her freshman year of college, she clicked through Iowa State’s website listings of over 800 student organizations and selected the ones she wanted to pursue.
Today, she’s a leader with the same organizations that first drew her interest – and she has since discovered many other leadership opportunities. She said that’s taught her a lesson about initiative.
“One of the things I learned is being an advocate for myself,” she said. “You have to scour the websites to find opportunities and not expect those to show up in an email and be given to you. That’s something I want to continue doing, to always be my biggest advocate, encourage myself to apply to things, and continue to place myself in new environments to learn and grow.”
Kawamitsu graduates this spring, and her impact on campus has not gone unnoticed. She is the only Iowa State undergraduate student to appear on the 2024 Women Impacting ISU Calendar, created annually by the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics.
A leader in culture and communication
The organizations that Kawamitsu pursued immediately at Iowa State were International Student Council (ISC) and TREND Magazine. As a leader in ISC, Kawamitsu collaborated on diverse initiatives to celebrate and advocate for international students. This led to more leadership roles with the university’s Student Government, International Student Success Collaborative, and the International First-Year Experience – an orientation class for international students.
Connecting with international students is personal for Kawamitsu. Her parents are both originally from Japan and moved to Omaha, Nebraska, in their twenties to study as international students. Kawamitsu, who grew up in Council Bluffs, Iowa, has also sought opportunities to study abroad, which gave her insight into the challenges of adapting to new countries and cultures. She studied abroad in Japan during high school and in Seoul, South Korea, during the fall of her junior year at Iowa State.
Curiosity, empathy, and the embrace of new perspectives are great skills not only for creating cultural connections – they’re also powerful skills for communicators. Kawamitsu is currently an editor-in-chief for TREND Magazine, a major Iowa State student-led publication focusing on fashion, beauty, and lifestyle.
Last summer, Kawamitsu and her fellow editors-in-chief designed a 19-page style guide for this year’s issue, with everything from color palettes inspired by filmmaker Wes Anderson to typography guidance. Their theme, “RADAR,” uses bright colors and bold styling to explore how polarization and injustice appear in patterns and parallels in history. The magazine’s 35th issue will publish later this spring.
“It’s such a great community and environment to be in if you are interested in tapping into your creativity and having no bounds,” said Kawamitsu, who has a minor in fashion, culture, history, and social justice. “There are endless limits as to what you want to create.”
Along with all her other campus leadership roles, Kawamitsu interned with the World Food Prize Foundation’s communications and youth programming teams last year. She also participates in the NASPA Undergraduate Fellows Program, an opportunity for students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds to explore professions in higher education. They are opportunities she didn’t know existed before attending Iowa State, but she now values them immensely.
“I’ve grown to love Iowa State,” she said. “I always expected myself to go out of state when I was in high school, but coming to Iowa State was one of the best decisions I think I’ve made. I didn’t realize as a high school student what opportunities are available to learn and grow outside of the classroom, and I think there’s such an abundance of opportunities and resources at Iowa State. It’s hard to decide what to pursue because I want to be involved in everything.”
A soon-to-be proud Greenlee alum
Kawamitsu has found many supportive role models in the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication who encourage her curiosity and drive. Daniela Dimitrova, University Professor and LAS Dean’s Professor in the Greenlee School, was the faculty mentor for Kawamitsu’s freshman honors research project.
“[Mia] was really bright, diligent, and deeply curious about other parts of the world, which impressed me immediately,” Dimitrova said. “Even though she was just a freshman, I encouraged her to take an upper-level class on World Media Systems with me, where she was not only excellent in terms of grades but also further developed her leadership and communication skills, immediately connecting with her classmates and with the wider campus community. Ever since that first semester, it’s been a pleasure to see Mia’s leadership skills develop and her impact on campus grow and shine.”
Kawamitsu is considering her career options for the future, such as working at a nonprofit or in higher education. No matter what she does, she said Iowa State’s strong support, from financial scholarships to mentors, has motivated her to continue to impact others. Meeting future Cyclones as a Greenlee ambassador is one of her favorite ways to do so.
“I absolutely love that position because I genuinely love Greenlee,” she said. “It’s a small but mighty department. The faculty and staff are just incredible. I’m really glad I can graduate and be a proud Greenlee alum in the future.”