When Audra Carson ’87 moved onto The University of Olivet’s campus as a freshman, she described herself as a painfully shy 17-year-old. Later, Audra’s mother even admitted she never thought Audra would last at OC, referring to the view out of her dorm window of the cemetery. Today, Audra is a proud graduate of Olivet, even serving on the college’s 175th Commemoration Committee, and the institution’s mission of Education for Individual and Social Responsibility shapes her outlook on life still today.
The Foundation to Make a Difference
A lifelong Detroit native, Audra grew up in a household where community engagement was paramount. As someone who believes in being a responsible steward of the environment and a servant in one’s community, The University of Olivet was a perfect fit for Audra.
“My parents and I chose Olivet because of its spiritual foundation,” Audra explained. “Although I was raised in the Baptist Church, the Congregational Church affiliation that Olivet was built upon felt right to my family. Additionally, the small size of the picturesque campus was important. Beginning my college career as a painfully shy 17-year-old, the small size and proximity to my hometown solidified my decision.”
As a student, Audra studied ACF and business, adding that her experiences in the classroom resulted in significant personal growth, both personally and academically. She began to find her voice when called upon in class, meeting with professors and engaging with fellow students. Audra even volunteered as a peer adviser for incoming freshmen and served as a tutor in the accounting lab. Audra says her college experience helped her realize she is more resilient and tenacious than she ever thought possible, and her experience as a student ignited a burning desire to make an impact.
“My parents raised my two older brothers and me to live by the book of Proverbs. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Treat others with respect while respecting yourself. The University of Olivet mission continues to confirm and reinforce the spiritual foundation that my family provided and I aspire to daily,” Audra said.
A Life Dedicated to Social Responsibility
After graduating from The University of Olivet, Audra began her professional career as a business analyst for MetLife. Later, she spent 15 years as a business analyst for another health care provider. In 2009, she decided to make a total career change and founded De-Tread. The organization works tirelessly for a greener and brighter future by finding solutions to the Detroit – and global – issue of post-consumer tire blight. In 2016, she also founded Izzie LLC, named after her mother with a simple mission to leave people, places and things better than we found them.
“The mission of De-Tread called me to action as I witnessed my beloved community becoming overwhelmed by post-consumer tire waste and illegally dumped tires,” Audra exclaimed. “It is both prudent and wise that solutions to the global issue of tire waste come from Detroit, the automotive mecca of the world. I endeavor to create traffic and safety products from recycled rubber. Although the facility has not come to fruition, I have been given the moniker of ‘Tire Nerd.’ I, along with a legion of dedicated volunteers, have cleaned up over 12,000 tires from the streets of Detroit and a section of Highland Park.”
The dangers of illegally dumped tires span from environmental hazards like air and water pollution, to health and safety issues as piles of tires are very flammable and often house disease-spreading mosquitoes and rodents. Further, tire blight also has a negative societal impact on residents of communities affected, especially children who grow up amongst this issue. Evidence suggests that litter and debris equates to depression of residents, inspiring Audra to take her work to the next level with Izzie LLC to tackle this issue specifically.
Audra holds the title of chief beautification strategist for Izzie LLC, aimed at impacting the visual aesthetic of communities through consulting organizations on their sustainability goals. To Audra, this is the labor of her love, and her desire to do good in these multi-faceted ways stems from her college education. Audra stated conclusively, “It is undeniable that my purpose to serve and social responsibility is inextricably connected to the foundation that The University of Olivet provided.”
Today, Audra is also the community engagement coordinator at Sinai-Grace Guild Community Development Corporation. The organization’s mission is driven by residents, businesses and community leaders who are committed to holistic and equitable revitalization toward a thriving healthy and sustainable northwest Detroit.
Audra’s motivation to serve stems from her love of Detroit, and the only reward she seeks is to see improvements in her beloved hometown. Her efforts have not gone unnoticed, and Audra has been awarded the Spirit of Detroit Award by Detroit City Councilman Scott Benson, a grant from the Awesome Foundation, a grant from the Skillman Foundation, and she has been nominated twice for The Power of One Dedicated Woman Award.
“My opinion and perspective is that we are all connected by our humanity,” Audra emphasized. “It is my responsibility to remove impediments for access to tools required for high quality of life. When this happens, individuals are free to connect with their genius and greatness. As a woman who has chosen service as my vocation, it is tremendously rewarding to know the mission of Olivet aligns holistically with who I am. It leaves me feeling eternally grateful and abundantly blessed.”
175 Years and Counting
Today, Audra serves as not only an ambassador to the city of Detroit, but is a The University of Olivet icon. She is an extraordinary example of what it means to Be More and Do Good, and the college is immensely proud to have Audra representing our 175 years of history on the Commemoration Committee.
Learn more about the entire committee and OC’s 175th anniversary, including a special presidential timeline reflecting on the college’s history through the legacy of its leaders. Contact the Office of Admissions at 800.456.7189 or email@example.com for more information about The University of Olivet.