Isabel Mishkin said goodbye to Bob, the dead cockroach in her old office.
The incoming IU Student Government president and her executive team members moved into their new office spaces last week in the Indiana Memorial Union Student Activities Tower. For Mishkin, who was the IUSG chief of staff this year, it was a short move.
Her new office is one cubicle to the right, overlooking Owen Hall. It’s decorated with legal pads, her purple water bottle and dry erase boards with diagrams of budgets drawn on them.
“I’m still settling in,” the junior said, unpacking a box.
As a child, Mishkin loved helping people. When she was 8, she would tell her mother and step-father to stay in their room so she could babysit her 2-year-old brother. She fed him snacks, and they crawled around the basement.
“It made me feel like I had a purpose in my family,” she said.
Mishkin grew up in Chicago and went to private school from preschool to high school. Having only about 30 or so classmates each year, she said, meant everyone knew everyone else. She said she was the one they went to when they felt sad or were fighting with friends.
Mishkin’s “mom role,” as her step-mother Lisa Mishkin calls it, intensified right before the start of seventh grade when Mishkin’s mother passed away from breast cancer.
“I lived through something that when you’re 12, you don’t think you’ll live through,” Isabel Mishkin said.
She said some of her closest friends struggling with unhealthy family relationships, self-harm and depression confided in her because they knew she had endured trauma, too.
Mishkin did research on how to identify unhealthy situations and how to help.
“Leadership and servitude all stem from feeling what someone else feels,” she said.
In high school, Mishkin said she got involved with a national nonprofit for adolescent depression awareness.
She organized a project to display her peers’ artwork based on two themes: lightness, representing breaking the stigma surrounding mental health, and darkness, representing the struggles of mental health conditions.
Mishkin said this project flipped a switch in her.
“It was incredibly empowering to see that I could be a catalyst for something,” she said.
Last summer, a student publicly accused the university of mishandling her sexual misconduct case. Mishkin said she spent the rest of the summer in contact with the student, fleshing out her concerns. Mishkin also helped her develop a march and rally to raise awareness for sexual violence on campus.
“That led us to explore the issue more in-depth,” Mishkin said.
In the fall, she organized a group to evaluate IU’s sexual misconduct policies, processes and prevention resources. Mishkin delivered 11 recommendations for improvement to IU Provost Lauren Robel. The University Faculty Council reviewed four of those recommendations on Tuesday.
Drew Ficociello, Mishkin’s chief of staff, said she respects Mishkin’s dedication to serving others.
“We’re working together, and she’s already on steps six, seven, eight,” Ficociello said. “She can’t help but see things through until the very end.”
For now, as a representative of the IU student body, Mishkin wants to help make IU a better place for all students. That starts with knowing what the students want, she said.
She and her team already have input from individual students and more than 39 student groups, who recommended a number of things such as establishing a culture center for Middle and Near Eastern students and introducing a graduation cap and gown buyback system.
“Everything we do is for the students,” Ficociello said.
Mishkin said her administration will hold monthly town hall events next school year in different locations on campus to give all students the opportunity to be included in student government decisions.