Mitchell’s successes at the College of Dentistry led him in 2014 to the Provost’s Office. There, he helped oversee Columbia’s investment of more than $185 million in faculty diversity initiatives, expanding the program from one focused on recruitment to one that also encompasses retention and development. advancement. Under her leadership, the number of black, Latino, and Indigenous women and faculty has steadily increased. The office recently released The Columbia University LGBTQ+ Guide, offering resources for faculty and staff to support students and colleagues. This fall, Mitchell and his team at the Office of Faculty Advancement will introduce a new pipeline initiative, Inclusive university pathways. Its mission is to help candidates from underrepresented groups transition from undergraduate and graduate programs into junior and research faculty positions at Columbia and other institutions of higher learning.
“I know what it’s like to be the only black person in a classroom or at a meeting of teachers or administrators,” Mitchell said. “I have spent my life doing this work because I understand the structural barriers that make it difficult for historically marginalized students and faculty to access college and graduate programs, thrive in those programs, be hired as scholars, and make advance their career. I also know that the quality of the teaching and research we do is greatly enhanced by the presence of students, faculty, and staff from diverse backgrounds within our academic community. I have seen firsthand the ways our diversity strengthens us as a community.
This work took on new urgency following the murder of George Floyd in late May 2020. In mid-June, Mitchell and his team were inspired to create opportunities for affirmative action in the Columbia community by donating grants to fund faculty anti-racism work, organizing a black anti-racism mini-institute with the School of Social Work, and lead a round table on the role of universities in promoting racial justice. Mitchell also helped lead university-wide efforts to provide recommendations on continuing Columbia’s institutional commitment to anti-racism.
“The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many others, coupled with the disproportionate death toll from COVID-19, have shone a light on the pervasiveness of anti-Black violence and discrimination in our society. Universities like Columbia are called upon to confront how they have contributed to inequality in the past and advance the cause of racial justice in the present. I’m proud of the work we’ve done on these fronts, and I now see real potential for meaningful and lasting change.
As he takes on his new role, Mitchell wants students to know they have an advocate in him and in college life. “I know how central the student experience is to everything we do at this university,” he said. “We wouldn’t be who we are or do what we do without our students, and I’m committed to making their time at Columbia as rewarding as possible.”