Aziza Allen with her book "Whole"

As a professional in the workplace and then as a graduate student, Aziza Allen felt she had to compartmentalize aspects of herself that made her unique.

“As a young, 23-year-old black woman, it was just really difficult for me to bring my full self everywhere I was,” said Allen. “Whether that was in academia or in my professional life or even in my religious life, it always felt like I had to check parts of me at the door.” 

So the second-year Full-Time MBA student decided to put pen to paper in sharing her feelings and experiences. In October 2018, she published Whole, a book of poetry detailing her personal journey as a woman, her life’s obstacles and her desire to be fully authentic and share her complete self with other people.

“The intimacy of poetry is the words I, one person, feel at any given moment... there are other people who are feeling them but can’t give language to that,” she said. “We’re empowered because we know we’re not alone when we write and share. Poetry is being honestly connected to other people and sharing stories.”

Whole has been a two-year project; the poems were written over the course of a year and a half, with publishing taking an additional six months. 

While writing the book, Allen also juggled the duties of a full-time graduate student and served as a graduate assistant with Fisher’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion Student Services (OD&ISS), helping manage Fisher’s graduate and undergraduate partnerships with KeyBank. She describes the office as “a family.” 

“When you need to escape the chaos of the crazy full-time MBA day, and you just want to be heard and seen, that’s where you go,” she said. “I’m very thankful for that office.” 

The presence of David Harrison, senior director of OD&ISS, and James Hill, chair of the Department of Management Sciences, at Allen’s recent poetry reading was a big moment for the young author. She described both of these leaders as role models. 

“I felt supported by my Fisher family and that was a huge thing for me,” she said.

Harrison offered kind words about Allen.

“Her strong faith and hope for a better tomorrow seem to be the foundation of her many gifts and attributes,” he said. “I have been honored to work with many outstanding graduate and undergraduate students in my almost 33 years of service in higher education administration and student affairs. However, very few students have been as spiritually gifted and talented as Aziza Allen.”

Allen describes herself as “a global advocate for women.” She previously founded The Esther Network, which focuses on establishing equity in the areas of racial justice, women’s empowerment and international development.

Her faith is an important element of Whole. She became a Christian at The Ohio State University four years ago. 

“There was for me no hope outside of Christ for me,” she said. “And that’s interlaced through the whole book. Any time there’s a huge frustration or tragedy that comes up in the book, I just reiterate there’s no way around it... you have to go through it , and in order to address what’s hurting in your soul, you need to have the friend of God, the friend of the Holy Spirit to do that.”

The book’s dedication is written to “every woman who has shattered under the weight of pretense — may this prose be a catalyst toward your becoming.”

Allen shared its meaning. 

“I think that especially for women of color, but for women in general, there’s weight of having to perform higher, at a better pace to be more excellent than everyone around you because that’s the only way you’ll get noticed or respected,” she said. 

“The book is dedicated to the women who have literally broken under that, so much so that they are tired and they can’t do it anymore. I wrote the book so that those women would have a path of reflection to come out and come out stronger. That they’d have the bravery to bring their full selves everywhere they go.”

“I felt supported by my Fisher family and that was a huge thing for me."

Aziza AllenSecond-year MBA student, author