When he was in middle school, Alexander Sojourney’s parents would take him to community meetings, where he saw elected officials listen to people’s complaints.
“They would talk about busted water pipes or potholes that needed to be filled,” he said.
In 2008, his parents took him see Barack Obama during his presidential campaign.
“Seeing someone like myself, with the same complexion, gave me a boost to know that I can achieve that,” he said.
Sojourney was able to see the spectrum of public service, from potholes to the presidency.
“I’m passionate about implementing equitable justice solutions for disadvantaged communities. I’d like to run for political office,” said Sojourney, who graduated from Arizona State University in May.
Now he is taking the next step toward his goal: He has won the prestigious Marshall Scholarship to pursue a graduate degree in the United Kingdom in 2021. He plans to study race, media and social justice at Goldsmiths, University of London, for a year, and then spend a year at Queen’s University in Belfast, studying conflict, transformation and social justice.
He is the 10th Sun Devil to win the scholarship since it was established in 1953 as an act of Parliament, and the third in the last five years, according to Kyle Mox, director of the Lorraine W. Frank Office of National Scholarships Advisement at ASU and associate dean of Barrett, The Honors College. The scholarship, which selects about 50 winners every year, is named for U.S. Secretary of State George C. Marshall to commemorate the ideals of the Marshall Plan and to express the post-World War II gratitude of the British people to America. The most recent ASU winners were Erin Schulte in 2018 and Frank Smith III in 2017, Mox said.
Sojourney earned a degree in political science with a minor in justice studies. He was the first Black student body president of ASU’s West campus, where he was part of a successful effort to have the university supply free period products in women’s restrooms on the four campuses. He also helped to launch the West Express shuttle service and promote voter registration at West.
“I think we still hold the record for the most students registered to vote, which is really cool,” Sojourney said.
He also has national experience, having just wrapped up a position with Joe Biden’s presidential campaign as deputy coalitions director, where he worked on outreach to the Black community in Arizona.
“It gave me the opportunity of not just informing the community about what Biden was doing, but also taking comments and complaints from the community and implementing that in our policy at the state, regional and national level,” he said.
Sojourney participated in the racial-justice protests in May and June, and addressed the Phoenix City Council on the importance of creating a community board to review police actions, an initiative that passed.
“It was a chance to let our voices be heard and it was cool to see something implemented that was from a central community voice,” he said.
Sojourney also was president of the Black African Coalition during his senior year, and participated in the Speech and Debate Club. He credits the faculty at Barrett, The Honors College, with pushing him to excel.
“When I first came to ASU, I did not see myself applying for a scholarship of this magnitude,” he said.
“I didn’t think I was competitive enough, but with the programs at ASU, and with Barrett being the top honors college in the nation, it gave me the confidence to know that we can compete with people from the Ivy League and Stanford, and we can do quite well.”
Top photo: Alexander Sojourney, winner of a prestigious Marshall Scholarship, is photographed on the West campus by the Paley Gates, on Dec. 4, 2020. He earned his Bachelor of Science in political science while studying on the West campus. Photo by Charlie Leight/Arizona State University
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