Four University of Virginia students are interning for President Teresa Sullivan this semester, but one of them really stands out. That's because Akil Mitchell is six-foot-eight and the top rebounder for the ACC-leading Cavaliers.
"It is quite unusual that a prominent student athlete like Akil would choose to spend the time to take on this responsibility," said Susan Harris, who is special assistant to the president and oversees Mitchell during his internship.
The senior forward has started 78 games for the 'Hoos in his career and is used to facing tough competition. That experience helped when applying for the internship last semester.
"It was a really rigorous interview process," he says. "There were three interviews, I think, and an application. It took a couple months, so I was pretty excited."
Mitchell is a sociology major and hopes to get a master's degree in business when he's done playing basketball.
In addition to other classes and the hours he devotes to workouts, practices, and games, he spends about three days a week at his internship this semester.
"I think it's surprising to people that he has a life outside of basketball, but he does," Harris said. "He is a student, a very good student. He also is a very good writer and has done a number of writing projects for us including drafting a resolution for the board meeting that we had last week."
Mitchell works specifically with the Board of Visitors and helps around the office, absorbing as much as he can. With his busy schedule, this semester has been a balancing act, but he says the support from his team has made things easier.
"They're behind me 100%. All my coaches are really flexible with helping me out and changing schedules and workouts and stuff to accommodate coming in and working but they've all been really supportive of me and my academic ambitions as well as my athletic ones."
In many ways Mitchell exemplifies what it means to be a student athlete, and he says his internship exemplifies what it means to be a student athlete at UVa.
"This is why we all came here because it's such a great academic institution. We all want that degree, that's what we all strive for.
"It also says a lot that President Sullivan would go out of her way to spend time with us and talk with us and to really reach down and connect with the students that she oversees everyday."