Mitchell appointed to lead Bellarmine's diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives

February 25, 2020

Donovan: position is ‘milestone’ in strategic plan implementation

Bellarmine University's president, Dr. Susan M. Donovan, announced today that Dr. Donald "DJ" Mitchell, Jr., has been appointed as the university's first Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer. He will serve as a member of Donovan's cabinet, advising her on university-wide initiatives, programs and policies.
DJMitchell300Mitchell – who will also continue in his faculty appointment as professor of higher education leadership and chair of Bellarmine's Master's in Higher Education Leadership and Social Justice program – will assume his new role on June 1. 
"Since student success is our primary goal, making sure we become more inclusive and equitable as our community becomes more diverse is critical," said Mitchell. "I’m eager to assist President Donovan and the Bellarmine community as we further actualize our social justice mission. I’m also excited about continuing as chair of the M.Ed. in Higher Education Leadership and Social Justice program. While my new role is primarily internally focused, my chair role includes preparing social justice-minded higher education professionals to lead at universities and organizations across the nation and the world, so the roles complement each other well."
Since January 2019, Mitchell has co-chaired the President's Advisory Board on Equity and Inclusion, which develops and reviews Bellarmine's policies around hiring, training and bias reporting for students, faculty and staff.
In addition to advising Donovan, Mitchell will work with campus entities to strengthen cultural competency to ensure students are being prepared to enter a diverse global society. He will also develop and monitor key performance indicators that demonstrate the university's progress in areas of diversity, equity and inclusion.
"The university and my leadership team are going to greatly benefit from Dr. Mitchell’s considerable expertise in areas of race, gender, identity and intersectionality in higher education," said Donovan. "One of the key priorities in our new strategic plan is to demonstrate a fully realized and lived commitment to equity and inclusion, as we empower all members of our increasingly diverse community and support them in reaching their full potential. Dr. Mitchell’s appointment to this new role is a milestone in the university's progress on matters of diversity, equity and inclusion."
Before his appointment to Bellarmine’s Annsley Frazier Thornton School of Education in 2017, Mitchell was an assistant professor of higher education at Grand Valley State University, and previously an instructor of educational leadership at Minnesota State University, Mankato. He holds a bachelor's degree in chemistry from Shaw University; a master's degree in educational leadership from Minnesota State University, Mankato; and a Ph.D. in educational policy and administration with a concentration in higher education from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities.
In January, Mitchell was named an emerging scholar by "Diverse: Issues in Higher Education." Among his many honors, he received a McGraw Hill Distinguished Scholar Award from the Ethnographic and Qualitative Research Conference in 2016. He earned an emerging scholar designation from the American College Personnel Association in 2015, primarily because of his scholarship on intersectionality, a framework he plans to use to guide his work in this new position. 
Mitchell says his initial goals are clear, thanks to the university's recent strategic planning process and the efforts of the president's advisory board, along with the work of campus partners like the Office of Human Resources, the Dr. Patricia P. Carver Office of Identity and Inclusion, and student organizations.
"Beyond monitoring our progress on climate, bias, university demographic trends and other diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives already in motion, another goal of mine is to constantly communicate that I can’t and shouldn’t do this work alone," he said. "Doing this work requires the investment of the full Bellarmine community. I see myself primarily as an accountability partner, making sure we are continuously moving towards becoming a better Bellarmine for all, and I look forward to continuing the university's work in this role."
In the current academic year, the university has completed several diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives:
  • The Office of Identity and Inclusion doubled its space and received funds to establish an endowment.
  • The president met with student leaders to discuss diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
  • The university facilitated online training for all faculty and staff.
  • Over 300 faculty and staff participated in a day-long diversity, equity and inclusion workshop.
  • The first faculty and staff identity-based affinity groups were created.
  • A campus climate survey was administered.

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