Student Spotlight

Aliyah Rodriguez, Staff Writer

Atira Barber-Ellis
Year: Senior
Major: Public Relations
Involvement: Vice President for BSU, Captain of the BSU Dance Team, Praise Dancer with Mission and Ministry

Why did you choose your major?

It gave me freedom. It was like the only major that I can do whatever I want with it. I can’t put myself in a box. [….] With doing PR, I can work in the medical field, in law or in entertainment. I can pick up any day and do whatever I want and still have a solid foundation but be free enough to go wherever I want.

Tell me about your business.

Our motto started by mistake, but not by accident because it really didn’t mean to be a business. One day a friend said “hey make my business cards for me,” and I did that over the summer. And then a bunch of people started coming to me afterwards because she was referring them to me and now, I have a client list. So, I called myself a graphic designer. But I was doing a lot of other stuff for people at the time, so I changed to saying that I’m a multidisciplinary artist. Then I picked up the moniker Atira The Great, which is a nickname I got about four or so years ago from a nonprofit that I was in, and it just took off from there. It went from me creating things for people to me teaching people how to create their brands. And then I decided that I was going to make a planner as a personal thing for myself. People on Instagram saw it and said they wanted to buy it and I told them that it wasn’t what I was here for, but they started putting in orders anyway. So now I make planners. I went from being a multidisciplinary artist to being a multidisciplinary studio. I now cover everything from content creation to being a resource for people to selling physical products.

What are your long term and short-term goals?

My long-term goal is to be happy. Everything I do in life is just built to make me happy. I just need to be stable. I need to be comfortable. I need to be in a safe environment and, at the end of it, I need to be happy. A short-term goal is to open a studio space.

Where would you want to open the studio space?

Definitely in Brooklyn. I’m Brooklyn born and raised so those are my roots. That’s where all my creativity comes from and where my biggest support is so I would like to give back to that community.

What does life after Iona hold for you?

Life after Iona, for me, offers freedom. I love Iona so much. I love the people that I’ve met here, I love the life that I’ve built here but I’m such a city kid and I need to be back in that space. Life after Iona is just me doing everything I’ve done here but on a bigger scale: meeting more people, networking with more people, being a part of more things, being able to touch so many different areas of my life and being able to explore so much more. Life after Iona is going to be so great.

Are you pursuing a master’s degree?

I am. I’m in the [five-year] program so I started my master’s my junior year. It has been a whirlwind, but I definitely recommend it. I love it, I feel like my master’s classes have been so worthwhile and foundational for me especially because the professors are so in tune with the PR world and us as budding adults. My master’s courses are really what have set me up to be excited about this newfound freedom.

What advice do you have for other women striving to find success while juggling school?

Find your roots and find your tribe. Finding your roots is more personal. […] I find things that make me happy and make me feel like I’m on my toes all the time likes plants, my favorite color, soft clothes, having things that make me grounded. I speak to [God] every second that I’ve got. But also find your tribe: find the people that are going to push you and support you and love you but also challenge you. Find the things that keep you grounded. Find things that plant you in a solid sense so you know who you are, and no one can shake that because it’s so hard being in these spaces.