For Aaron Slocum and Azizi Arrington-Slocum, Indiana State University will always be remembered as the starting point of their storybook adventure. As Azizi puts it, she “found what I always prayed for” right on State’s campus nine years ago.
“Indiana State is where I met my best friend, poem come true, husband, and love of my life,” said Azizi, associate professor and coordinator of State’s interior architecture design program. “In all honesty, I knew little to nothing about ISU or Terre Haute before coming here for the job interview. But I am grateful I stepped out on faith and came to ISU because I have had opportunities to not only grow professionally but also to develop a community and lifelong friendships here.”
Azizi and Aaron’s story together began when they “met” for the first time at a Black Faculty and Staff Caucus welcome luncheon in September 2012. “I got to the lunch late. When I walked into Generations, he was at the end of the table and waved.” Aaron, who now serves as the Mentoring Center Director for the University College, didn’t exchange words with Azizi from the other end of the table. “But I was like, ‘Who is that?’, and gave her ‘the eye’.”
Shortly after that, Azizi and a couple of other State colleagues were planning a trip to St. Louis when Azizi suggested asking “the new guy in Res Life.”
For Aaron, he describes that trip to St. Louis as “an opportunity for me to capitalize on showing ‘the Aaron Slocum’.”
The couple started dating at the end of 2012 and made it official in 2013. On Azizi’s birthday, June 24, 2018, Aaron popped the question at a surprise birthday/engagement party in Milwaukee with Azizi’s family from Cleveland and many of their friends from work. They were married on July 12, 2019.
“Our relationship has been the greatest lesson of all because I’ve been used to doing everything alone, being the strong one, and putting it all on my shoulders,” Azizi said. “But Aaron and I have been encouraging each other, pushing each other towards our dreams, and pressing towards our goals together for eight years. We have achieved promotion and tenure, an architecture license, interior design certification, home ownership, 10 travel destinations and a Ph.D.”
And they are enjoying life’s journey together. “It’s not just my dream or his dream now, it’s our dream and we support each other until we reach it and then create another dream,” she added.
One of the couple’s biggest passions is traveling abroad. “When we travel it’s more about us getting away and not being on the phone,” Aaron said. “My wife is my travel buddy and that time together is the most important, but it’s also about experiencing other cultures and watching sunrises and sunsets.”
The couple’s travel destinations include Mexico twice, Canada, South Africa, Ghana, Dubai, Thailand, Rome, London and Fiji.
Azizi said they are often asked what has been their favorite location. “I think it depends because they’re all so different. Every trip has such beautiful memories,” Azizi said. “Fiji, of course, was our honeymoon and we stayed in an over-the-water bungalow. We did Christmas in Rome and brought in the New Year at the Colosseum. For me, the architecture there was the best and the food was so good. Then, there was Ghana and being able to go there and see the history, especially as a Black person. It also makes the top of the list.”
Along with travel, Aaron and Azizi also share another common passion – educating and helping students.
“The students are what makes the job the most enjoyable. Being able to sit down with them, encourage them, and being there in the moment when it all makes sense,” Azizi said. “I think we are both natural mentors, which is why we have so many students and graduates that we have built relationships with outside of the classroom, to really help them grow and watch them become more than they ever dreamed.”
Aaron has the opportunity to interact with students all day, every day. “What brings joy to my job is that I get to help and see students grow, and develop into the person they want to become,” he said. “The best moments are seeing students graduate and celebrate their accomplishment with their friends, families, and love ones.”
Whether they are traveling the world or working on the same campus, Aaron and Azizi rarely seem to tire from too much togetherness.
“We’ve been working from home and Azizi was on sabbatical last semester, so when I was having meetings with individuals in my department she was working at her desk right behind mine at home,” Aaron said. “I honestly believe that being on campus with your significant other draws another aspect to the job. I believe a lot of Black students don’t get to experience or see Black love, so we’re really an example for the people around us.”