SIU graduate thankful for unique opportunities

Shaka Mitchell - Paul Simon Public Policy Instituteby Rebecca Renshaw

If Shaka Mitchell, a 2011 SIU Carbondale graduate, could sum up his experience with the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute in one word, it would be “exposure.”

“The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute opened doors of opportunity for me. It gave me an avenue to meet a lot of influential people in business and politics. It also introduced me to the world of networking,” he said. “Had I not had that exposure, I would certainly not be where I am today.”

Today, Mitchell lives in Chicago and is making plans to open a fitness gym, but his path to owning his own business has been far from ordinary.

Upon graduating from O’Fallon Township High School, in O’Fallon, Illinois, Mitchell received a full SIU Presidential Scholarship. Mitchell earned a bachelor’s degree in business finance from SIU Carbondale in May 2011.

“Getting a good foundation in business has really helped me with opening my gym, but it was something completely outside of the world of business that ignited my passion,” Mitchell said.

While at SIU, Mitchell discovered an interest that would reshape his future. As a sophomore, he took a martial arts class with a Korean instructor and found he excelled at the sport. After graduating from SIU, Mitchell took his passion for martial arts to a new level. He enrolled at Yong-In University in South Korea and earned a master’s degree in Taekwondo.

“I was the only American to ever attend Yong-In University,” Mitchell shared. “I did not know any of the language and I knew no one there. But, that didn’t stop me from fulfilling my dream. Because of what I learned in South Korea and placing second in the Taekwondo National Championships, I can confidently say I am the best at what I do and what I can offer others. As for the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, it gave me the confidence to go fulfill my dreams.

As a student, Mitchell served the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute as an ambassador and a student worker. In those roles, he received opportunities to meet prominent people in both business and politics.

“One of my highlights was getting to meet businessman Chris Gardner. The motion picture, “The Pursuit of Happyness” is based on a book about Gardner’s life,” Mitchell said. “I was also influenced by the Vince Demuzio internship program were I worked at the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

“I would encourage SIU alumni and donors to support the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute by helping fund any of the existing endowed student scholarships. Having personally worked with Mike Lawrence, former director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, and knowing what a tremendous impact he had on my life, I would like to see monetary donations go to further his cause.”

To learn more about the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, visit To learn more about the needs of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, visit

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