This fall, Audra Carson ’87 will be recognized at Homecoming as a Distinguished Alumni Award recipient. Established in 1958, the award is the highest honor presented to alumni. These alumni are honored for living out the College’s vision, mission and values as well as making positive contributions to their profession and community.
Carson is the founder of De-tread, a Detroit-based social enterprise that endeavors to make products from post-consumer tire waste. She is also the founder and chief beautification strategist for Izzie LLC, an organization named after her mother, which claims the motto, “We leave people, places and things better than we found them.” Here, Carson opens up about her passion for giving back and how Olivet helped instill that passion in her life.
Why is it important to give back to the Detroit community?
I love the city with my whole heart and I love the people with my whole heart. I couldn’t see myself anywhere else. I host a podcast called “CommuniD Podcast with Audra Carson.” The tagline is “Unique Pathways; One Common Goal.” It is paramount to me that at this moment in history, with society minimalizing authentic connection, that I highlight Detroiters who are creating communities in their unique and beautiful ways.
In retrospect, what have you learned about your Olivet experience?
I think being a young person, you don’t necessarily understand the historical legacy of an institution. You come to classes and enjoy the college experience, but there is a foundation of things that you don’t really reap the benefits of until you live life a little. My experience at Olivet was extremely robust. It was a wonderful, robust education — a full experience.
How did Olivet help you grow into the person you are today?
I was a painfully shy young lady attending Olivet. It was important to me to gain independence and understand the value of a quality education. I needed to accept accountability and responsibility. Olivet allowed me to learn how to navigate the world. I learned and lived among students from backgrounds different from mine, some of whom are now my lifelong friends. It was a perfect way to experience my education, just the right fit for my personality. Upon graduation at 21 years old, I didn’t fully understand how deeply Olivet enriched my life, yet I believe that working every day to make conditions better for my community is my personal confirmation that I get it.
What does your work with the College mean to you?
I look forward to how my connection to Olivet could potentially grow. I look to have a deeper relationship with the College. I want to impact the legacy of Olivet. Olivet can continue to be strengthened. The future of Olivet is to continue to be that light in the world, and I want to add light to that brightness.
I think it’s absolutely amazing to be able to add individuals’ talents to uphold the legacy of the institution. Olivet has a phenomenal reputation and legacy, and for over 175 years, we’ve been open to educating all people. What a phenomenal opportunity to continue to strengthen this legacy.
How do you represent the College in your day-to-day life?
As a social entrepreneur leading Izzie LLC and the CommuniD Podcast, I reflect the values of Olivet College. In my work with Community Lens at Noble Elementary-Middle School, I reflect the values of Olivet College. Although I am just one person, when wisdom and divine collaboration are employed, individual and social responsibility has an exponential impact.
I have the opportunity to talk to young people on a regular basis through the work I do, and I interact with people while I’m out and about. I spread the word that there are educational opportunities out there. I recommend Olivet wholeheartedly and unabashedly. Olivet is an excellent option, and I want to share that with people who may not have considered the College.
What does it mean to you to receive the Distinguished Alumni Award?
I am still unpacking what it means to me. It touches me deeply; it calms my spirit. It affirms my belief in the system to be recognized by fellow alumni in the institution. It just astounds me. I don’t have a lot of words because I’m extremely emotional about it. It’s one of the biggest things that has happened to me in my years.
On Oct. 11, Carson will be honored alongside Pamela Heos ’77 and Richard Penhallegon ’63 at the Homecoming Alumni Awards Celebration and Reunion Dinner. Check out the full Homecoming schedule and purchase tickets to attend.
To learn more about this year’s Homecoming, contact Samantha Pearl ’00 at firstname.lastname@example.org or 269-749-7644.