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ASU Dean’s Medalist to attend law school, become a public defender

Anjali Mistry was inspired by her passion for gender studies, Black feminism and politics

Anjali Mistry

School of Social Transformation Dean's Medalist Anjali Mistry

November 16, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2020 graduates.

In December, Chandler, Arizona native Anjali Mistry will graduate summa cum laude from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in women and gender studies, and political science with a perfect 4.0 GPA.

In the classroom, Anjali has been an excellent student and has earned outstanding grades. Anjali’s course instructors have been particularly impressed by the thoughtfulness and insightfulness of Anjali’s contributions to class discussions. Anjali has centered her time at ASU learning about Black feminisms and Black history. Learned from the pioneers of Black feminism, she uses intersectionality as a critical lens to inform her academic work. She is a reader of authors such as Angela Davis and Audre Lorde who have inspired much of her passion for gender studies and politics.

Michelle McGibbney, a senior lecturer and current faculty head in the women and gender studies program in the School of Social Transformation, remembers having Anjali in the WST senior seminar this semester.

“I was impressed by the work she produced in this course. Her research paper was theoretically sound and her discussion posts were thoughtful and insightful. She is an excellent student who is extremely motivated and is a critical thinker.  She is well-deserving of this award and we are excited that this outstanding WST major will be recognized.” McGibbney said.

Furthermore, Anjali has worked tirelessly to promote inclusion and awareness of critical social issues. While at ASU, Anjali was a political reporter and opinion columnist for the State Press and a co-coordinator of the Clothesline Project to raise awareness about domestic and sexual violence.

“Anjali was enrolled in my WST 477: Gender and Violence course in fall 2018," said Dr. Alesha Durfee, associate professor in women and gender studies and who has led the School of Social Transformation's Clothesline Project since 2014. "We cover difficult, complex material and then use it to change society by raising awareness about domestic and sexual violence. Anjali thrived in the course and earned an "A". Anjali was also an integral part of the 2018 Clothesline Project. She worked a shift where she was available to students to talk with them about domestic and sexual violence and provide them with information about resources. 

“She also helped with the set-up and tear-down of that event, which is a big job! She also co-organized and co-hosted a separate mini-Clothesline Project on campus. She was always prepared for and very engaged in class, gave insightful comments, worked well with other students, and was clearly passionate about social justice. Anjali was a pleasure to work with, and I'm tremendously happy to see her be recognized through the receipt of this award."

In addition to her work with the State Press and the Clothesline Project, Anjali also interned throughout her junior and senior semesters at various government institutions. Last year she worked as a Senate page at the Arizona State Senate. There she learned the ropes of the legislative process and the intricacies of state government. She then went on to intern at the Arizona Attorney General’s Office of Victim Services, where she spent time doing casework and attending court hearings to help fine-tune her understanding of the justice system

This fall, as part of her work with the Humanities Lab, Anjali has collaborated on projects to develop a new sex education curriculum that is more inclusive of the disabled community and to create a zine sharing student experiences as part of a call for reform to improve accessibility at student counseling services.

After graduation, Anjali plans to attend law school and become a public defender. Anjali’s career ambitions are motivated by her dedication to advocate for marginalized populations and to work to address racial disparities in criminal sentencing. 

We met with Anjali (virtually) and ask a few more questions about her experience at ASU and what motivated her to choose her career path.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: My aha moment was after the inauguration of Donald Trump when millions of people all over the nation and globe gathered together to demonstrate the power of women with the women’s march. I was so inspired I decided to dedicate my time at ASU to the study of feminism to better understand how to empower myself and the women around me. 

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective? 

A: I learned that every person on this earth is ignorant in some type of way, myself included. The amazing professors/mentors I have had at ASU have taught me that I need to work every day to unlearn my ignorance and better my understanding of various communities.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

ASU is such an enormous university I knew that the diversity of people and the professors here were going to open me to a whole world of knowledge I hadn’t even known existed yet.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

It is a tie between Professor Vinas-Nelson and Professor Stanlie James in the African and African American studies department. They introduced me to Black feminism, whose scholarship and literature has shaped my personal perspective on social issues and has taught me to view the world through the lens of intersectionality.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

I would say, don’t go for the easy classes. Take the classes with topics you have a genuine interest for or are even curious about, it will make your time in undergrad so much more fulfilling.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

I love Charlie’s Cafe in the Design North Building!

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

I am applying to law school this fall and planning on attending law school by fall of 2021 with hopes of working for a public defenders office.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

I would put the money towards funding for biosecurity measures so we can continue to fight the current pandemic and prevent future ones.

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