Alexander reigns as first female to lead War Eagle Girls and Plainsmen

Published: July 23, 2020
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Ari Alexander never even heard of Auburn University until her family moved to Alabama from Michigan when she was in the eighth grade.

And yet, by the time she was a senior at Auburn, Alexander was in a position to lead the War Eagle Girls and Plainsmen, the official hosts and hostesses of Auburn University.

Alexander was the first female president of the organization, commonly known by the acronym WEGP, for the 2019-20 school year. Auburn established WEGP back in the 1960s.

“Since no one in my family went to Auburn, when I first got here, I knew little to nothing about all the different traditions and organizations, including WEGP,” she said. “During the spring of my sophomore year, I decided to apply and interview. I genuinely thought there was no way that I would make the group.”

Alexander’s doubts were understandable: She had applied and interviewed for many campus organizations and had never heard her name during a callout, plus she still knew very little about Auburn.

“To say the least, I was stunned when I got in,” she admitted. “It is crazy to think that, coming into college, I didn’t even know what WEGP was, and this organization had such a big impact on my time at Auburn.”

Since Alexander essentially grew up in both Michigan and Huntsville, Alabama, when it came time to apply to college, she picked Michigan State University and Auburn.

“I grew up a Michigan State fan; my older sister went there, and I always thought that was where I was going to go,” said Alexander. “Some of my high school friends talked about going to Auburn, so I set up a tour just to check it out.

“It was pouring down rain the day I toured Auburn, but I instantly fell in love with all the people. After just a few hours, I knew Auburn was where I wanted to go.”

When it came to deciding a major, Alexander was destined to follow in her family’s footsteps and pick an area related to math or science. Considering math had been her favorite subject since elementary school, she was pleased to learn that most of the engineering majors at Auburn require seven math classes.

“That seemed right up my alley,” said Alexander.

She initially was a mechanical engineering major, but learned from physics class that “being a mechanical engineer was not my true calling in life.”

Alexander wasn’t about to give up on engineering altogether, so she discussed options with her advisor. She admitted she had never heard about industrial and systems engineering before, but was tempted. The advisor explained that industrial and systems engineering is like the business side of engineering. Alexander was sold.

“The higher that I got into my major classes, the more I enjoyed it,” she said. “I love breaking down data and figuring out either the root cause of a problem or understanding the ‘why’ behind the way things are done.”

Alexander has learned much outside of class as well.

“WEGP has taught me the true definition of servant leadership,” she said. “I care a lot about what drives our group and the heart behind the organization.”

Being a War Eagle Girl and president, Alexander said she appreciated the community fostered within the group. A major responsibility of WEGP is to work as hosts at a variety of events. She said some of her favorite events have been when she was stationed at a door and had the opportunity to get in a deep conversation with a fellow WEGP.

It’s also easy to get to know one another when WEGP has to travel to an event that takes 10-plus hours on the road. But Alexander said some of her favorite college memories were from those trips.

“I love watching our football team win, I do. But some of my favorite memories have come after the games we’ve lost,” she admitted. “Everyone is normally down and not really motivated, but those are the nights when we will stay up and play games, or just sit around and enjoy each other’s company and I love that.”

Alexander enjoyed her year as president, but she said it was a challenge to be “a leader amongst leaders.” It was also challenging to juggle everything amid preparing for the end of college and the start of a career.

She was anticipating job offers in March when the COVID-19 pandemic upended a seemingly normal senior year. Like the rest of the Class of 2020, Alexander finished her time at Auburn remotely, but she plans to return to campus in August for the spring/summer commencement ceremonies.

Alexander remains anxious to begin the next phase of her life, working as a consultant with Ernst & Young in Atlanta, but that has to wait until January when her COVID-19 furlough ends. In the meantime, she’s at home in Huntsville, working for Limitless Marketing Group.

“Since quarantine started, I've been trying to adjust to and enjoy the slower pace of life compared to the hyperactive schedule I once had at Auburn,” she explained. “Although my time at Auburn got cut short, I'm so thankful for the time that I had, and I wish I could go back and do it all over again.”

Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.