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Pepperdine University

Hattie Mitchell

School of Public Policy | 2012
Founder, Crete Academy

What does being an honoree of this campaign mean to you?

Being an honoree of the Outstanding Alumni | Women in Leadership campaign is a distinct privilege. It represents outstanding accomplishment and a life of dedicated service. Ultimately, the honor of being an outstanding alumna is validation that I am fulfilling my purpose and making a difference in the world.

Describe your success story.

At a very young age, I had a deep sense of compassion for people experiencing homelessness.

At just five years old, I would ask my mom to give money and food to people who I saw standing under the freeway overpasses. I had a sense of responsibility and obligation to people who appeared to be struggling.

The sense of compassion that I carried with me for those experiencing homelessness followed me into adulthood. One day, during my undergraduate time, I was volunteering at a mission in Downtown Los Angeles. It was during my time volunteering that my purpose came into focus and my life changed forever.

Upon finishing my volunteer hours, I walked outside of the mission to find a baby girl crawling on the sidewalk. Among filth, drugs and violence, the baby crawled away from her mother, where she lived. In that moment, I began thinking of the limitless potential for the little girl, but the limited opportunities given her circumstances. I thought to myself, "What would have to change in her life for her to be a success story?" The answer was a good education. On that day, 16 years ago, I decided that I would find a way to provide a quality education that would help kids like that baby girl end the cycle of poverty.

From my undergraduate experience, I decided to embark on a mission of understanding the educational system and devising a school model that would address the issue of homelessness among children. I taught for a few years, worked as an administrator, worked at the state and federal levels on education policy, and earned a master's degree and doctoral degree to assist with the process. Sixteen years later, I opened Crete Academy, a school that serves children experiencing homelessness and poverty in South Los Angeles.

How has Pepperdine played a role in your success?

My time at the Pepperdine School of Public Policy was profound in shaping who I became as a leader. The principles gained during my education at SPP continue to be a guide for my work. Moreover, the skills I learned set me apart from others and allowed me to accept opportunities when they were presented. Additionally, the friends I made during my time at Pepperdine have become some of the closest individuals and mentors that I know today. Overall, I would not be where I am today and have the effect that I do on my community without my experience at Pepperdine.

Describe a lesson you've learned from a challenging time in your career or life.

While in graduate school at SPP, I became pregnant with my first child. I was interning at the White House and attending school full time. Once I had my son, I still had a year left of graduate school and so, I would have to attend class, baby in tow. It was difficult to juggle being a new mom, working, and going to school, but I learned if I just focused on what I needed to accomplish each day, I could push through. I graduated on time with my peers and went on to enjoy motherhood and my first job opportunity after graduate school.

How would you describe your leadership style?

My leadership style is similar to that of a sports coach. I believe in spending a lot of time and effort on preparation and training. My team knows that I rely on their input, expertise, and ideas when it comes to making decisions, and I believe in empowering everyone to be their best, while ensuring people are in position where they will thrive.

"My time at the Pepperdine School of Public Policy was profound in shaping who I became as a leader. The principles gained during my education at SPP continue to be a guide for my work."

Hattie Mitchell (MPP '12)

Who has helped you achieve success in your career?

Many people have helped me achieve success in my career, mainly my parents, husband, children, and numerous professors, mentors, and leaders.

What's next for you?

I hope to offer more resources and options in the education space.

What was your first job?

I worked as a cashier at a pizza place in high school.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

I would like to attempt being a medical doctor.

What historical or modern-day leader do you admire and why?

Mother Teresa, for her steadfastness, compassion, and generosity.

What is your mantra or favorite quote?

Figure it out.

How do you prepare for a busy day?

I review my calendar, take time to eat and rest, do at least one thing enjoyable, and adjust as needed.

What is one of your favorite hobbies?

Running, biking.