February 12, 2018

It’s hard to keep up with Averie Bishop ’19. The reigning Miss Asian American Texas and SMU junior has her hands full as a double major in human rights and political science, vice president of Phi Alpha Delta pre-law fraternity and co-founder of a humanitarian charity. She segued from the Hilltop to Capitol Hill as a Congressional Fellow last summer and participated in the Clinton Global Initiative University annual meeting in October. Senior Alexis Kopp ’18, a double major in English and education with a journalism minor, recently convinced the dynamo to take five for a chat about her academic and philanthropic passions and her fairy tale Family Weekend.

Have you always done pageants?

No! It was the very first pageant I’d ever competed in. This pageant circuit is very different. Instead of a bathing suit competition, it had a cultural attire competition, where you wear clothing that represents your ethnicity; in my case, that’s Filipino on my mother’s side. It also emphasized the interview portion more than other pageants usually do.

Averie Bishop as Cinderella.

Averie Bishop played Cinderella in Into The Woods, the Family Weekend Musical presented in the fall.

What are some of your duties as Miss Asian American Texas?

I’ve been hosting community events, volunteering with many organizations and doing a lot of work with my nonprofit organization. I was also a part of the opening State Fair parade. That was a lot of fun!

What did you do as a Congressional Fellow, and what did you take away from the experience?

I worked in the U.S. House of Representatives, primarily with Sheila Jackson Lee of Houston, organizing committee hearings and briefings and writing talking points. I also helped draft bills. I think a lot of people assume that the government is in shambles, and everything is chaotic and hectic and polarized. I found that people were willing to have candid conversations and listen to other opinions. That experience made me realize that I should listen more closely and think about what people are really saying.

What’s new with your nonprofit, The Tulong Foundation?

My mother, Marevi, grew up in a poverty-stricken community in the Philippines, where access to education was limited by your ability to pay for it. We started the foundation in 2015 as The Bishop Outreach Fund but have changed the name to better reflect our mission. “Tulong” means “help” in the Filipino language. We are currently helping impoverished children in the southern Philippines get an education. We also built a water well in the Banga, South Cotabato province – where my mother’s from – to provide easier access to clean water. I represented our organization at the Clinton Global Initiative conference, and I learned a lot. It made me rethink our efforts and expand our focus. We want to reach other countries in Southeast Asia and broaden our efforts to teach sustainable farming skills.

You transferred to SMU from Texas State. Describe that experience.

Both of my parents work two jobs, so it was very important that I received additional financial support. I was awarded an Honor Transfer Scholarship, which covers half of my tuition. Had I not received that assistance, I would not have been able to attend SMU, so I’m very grateful for that. Transferring here, finding a place to live and finding a good community and friends were much easier than I expected. I’m so glad I’m here!

Why did you choose your majors?

Prof. Rick Halperin, the compelling classes and my mother’s story. She struggled to get to the United States and become a citizen. I feel like the political science-human rights combination is good preparation for my future. I hope to become a lawyer with a focus on immi-gration or civil rights.

What was it like to play Cinderella in the Family Weekend Musical, Into the Woods?

It was hectic, to say the least, because we learned everything in 24 hours. Sam Weber was an incredible director!  I got to meet so many different people, and I think I really found a sort of family on campus. Before I transferred to SMU, I majored in acting, so it was great to get back into the arts. While academics are very important, I think it is important for people to have their niche or hobby, something they really enjoy doing, to go back to when they need a creative release.

What do you like best about SMU?

The community of students. The univer- sity I previously attended was very large. The classes averaged about 100 students, so people weren’t as motivated to speak to one another or contribute in class. But SMU is a good size – it’s not too big and not too small – and people are so willing to exchange ideas and listen to one another. The community is very understanding, open and accepting.