Becoming a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA), a historically African American sorority, was transformative for senior Zoe Evans. It gave her confidence, community, and the chance to become a leader on the U-M campus. Now, it also gives her something in common with Vice President Kamala Harris, who is also a member of the AKA sisterhood. Beyond being an active participant in her sorority chapter, Evans also served as treasurer of the U-M chapter of the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) during the 2019-20 academic year. The NPHC is a collaborative governing body for African American Greek-letter organizations founded in the 1930s when Black students were still prohibited from joining predominantly white fraternities and sororities.
Michigan Alumnus gleaned the following in a conversation with Evans.
THOUGH EVANS GREW UP in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, her parents are originally from Louisiana and raised her with what she calls a “Southern Creole upbringing in the Midwest.” That included frequent trips down South, which instilled in Evans a strong sense that Louisiana is “home.” During high school, Evans was highly engaged in her community — she was part of her school’s student association and served as president of both the Key Club, an international service organization for high school students, and the National Honor Society. Evans also danced (ballet, jazz, and contemporary), often performing during the holiday season at local nursing homes.
EVANS’ FIRST YEAR AT U-M proved challenging. As a Black woman on a predominantly white campus, she immediately felt like “a fish out of water.” Imposter syndrome plagued her first days of college. “I remember going home for fall break and having so much anxiety and thinking, ‘I don’t know if I can do this,’” Evans recalled. Little by little, however, she learned to thrive. Her courses piqued her curiosity, including a class on the history of Amsterdam. “I remember thinking, ‘It’s so cool that I can get different perspectives from around the world.’” After talking to one of her friends at the Ross School of Business, Evans decided to pursue a business administration degree and was accepted into Ross’ class of 2021.
JOINING AKA as a first-year student changed Evans’ college career. She had met a number of AKA alumnae before attending U-M and aspired to be like them long before she arrived on campus. “They really were the epitome of well-rounded, driven, professional women who were also committed to making sure the women around them succeeded,” Evans explained. AKA sister Vice President Kamala Harris is now a huge source of pride for her sorority. “We feel like we are all in the White House now,” Evans said with a laugh. “To see someone succeed at something this huge who is not a white man, or a white woman — and who represents a group of people that has been systemically oppressed in this country — is incredible.” Evans is committed to a lifetime of sisterhood and service with AKA. “We are bonded for life,” she continued. “When I am 40, 50, and 60 years old, I know that my kids are going to grow up and be like, ‘Yeah, my mom’s an AKA.’”
UPON GRADUATION, EVANS WILL start work as a marketing analyst at American Express, where she worked last summer as a consumer marketing intern. Further down the line, she hopes to pursue an advanced degree, though her ultimate goal is to help other students — especially young women of color — achieve their academic, professional, and personal goals. While she sees herself working as a professional mentor or perhaps a professor, Evans is still unsure of her exact path and in need of mentoring herself. “I think that’s been one of the biggest lessons that I’ve learned from being at the University. Sometimes you just have to do the uncomfortable thing and admit you need help because you really can’t do it alone.”
Alexander Satola is a senior in LSA and a correspondent for The Statement, the magazine of The Michigan Daily.