Who We Are: Kim Aiken Jr.
In the world today, the intersection of politics and sports can be a divisive or controversial topic. Both sides wanting to prove that their views are the correct views and not always willing to completely see the other side.
But there is a part of that intersection that Arizona forward Kim Aiken Jr. is looking to get involved with and that is using sports to find a way to impact his community through politics.
"It was always something that I was interested in when I was younger," Aiken says. "The areas that I grew up in were not always the best so I always wondered to myself, 'What's the best way I can help my community?'"
After graduating high school and going on to play basketball at Eastern Washington University, Aiken earned his undergraduate degree in Political Science from EWU. But he still had two years of athletic eligibility left and wanted to push himself to a higher level. That's when an opportunity presented itself at to come to the University of Arizona to play basketball, but also further his pursuit of impacting those around him through government.
Shortly after he arrived on campus, he was introduced to members of the Government and Community Relations department on campus. Their role is to develop strategies and policies that promote UA's interests across all levels of government. It's a connection that Aiken hopes will allow him to see part of the process that leads to decisions being made that impact so may at the university. And it's also another example of Arizona Athletics' support of the Wildcat Journey by collaborating with campus resources to provide career development and exposure as well as career mentors.
"I just want to see what it's like in the political world," said Aiken. "I've been inside mayor's offices other government offices, but never in meetings and paying attention to that stuff. I see it on CSPAN but actually being there and feeling the power of decision making happening is something that I'm really looking forward to."
This semester, Aiken is taking classes with the hopes of being admitted into program where he can earn a Masters in Public Administration, which is a two-year program for full-time students.
"Right now, I have a class called 'State and Local Finance' so I am learning a lot about taxes. I didn't realize how each school district uses property taxes to fund the schools, but that helps explain why Beverly Hills High School is so much nicer than Long Beach Unified School District. It's a tough class, but it's really intriguing to me."
Where the program will take him, no one really knows. But Aiken is willing to pursue all avenues, even if those take him outside the United States. And given that the men's basketball team has eight international players, it's yet another real-life resource that Aiken is tapping into that could prove to be beneficial in the future.
"I don't think anyone else on the team is really into politics," he says. "But it is nice having guys on the team from all over the world because I can talk to them about how they grew up and how their government impacted them. For example, I have talked with Adama Bal about what it was like growing up in France and comparing that to here. Who knows, if it doesn't work out for me to impact my community here, I could be a United States Ambassador to another country. So having that background on how France operates is invaluable to me because I get to know a teammate better and I could also use that down the road."
His journey as a Wildcat is shorter tha most as a transfer with two years to play. However, his pursuit of a career in politics after basketball embodies Arizona's "Wildcat Way" strategic initiatives. Aiken Jr. is utilizing a plethora of resources on the campus of the University of Arizona to fulfill the department's mission of providing opportunities for student-athletes to become athletic, academic and life champions.
Aiken is keeping his mind and his options open, while also playing a key role for head coach Tommy Lloyd and the Wildcats on the court this year. As one of the older players on the team, he will be looked upon to use that experience to set an example for the younger players.
Just like a politician with a lot of experience did for Aiken.
"An important factor in my interest in politics was Barak Obama, because he talked about doing a lot of different things while he was president, and he was actually able to get them done. I don't know if I will become president but finding something to do that helps the country or helps the community is something I want to do."