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Donald Mitchell, Jr.2014 Rising Alumni

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Donald Mitchell, Jr. is dedicated to improving educational environments for underrepresented populations who have been marginalized by existing systems and cultures. He is actively engaged in research on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, intersectionality, Black Greek-letter organizations, and equity, diversity and inclusion in higher education. He has an outstanding early record of scholarship and publication. Donald volunteers with Grand Rapids Public Schools and received the Dr. Carlos J. Vallejo Memorial Award for Emerging Scholarship from the American Educational Research Association.


Assistant Professor of Higher Education
Grand Valley State University

CEHD Degree

Ph.D., Higher Education

What gets you excited about work?

My students. I let my students know I am solely there to assist them in getting where they are going. So I share everything I know with them and invest all of my energy into working with them because I want the best for them, particularly post-graduation.

If you could have coffee with anyone from history, who would it be?

Nelson Mandela. Man, the power of his words. Of course I learned about him during secondary schooling, but I did not really realize the impact he had on South Africa and the world until after his death. At the age of 29, I can finally understand it. Any person that selfless and passionate about liberating a country, I would love to sit down with.

What was the impact and benefit of your experience in CEHD?

As far as I go in my professional career, I owe part of it to my educational experience in CEHD. I left prepared, and that is all I could ask for.

What professors were most influential during your time in CEHD?

Darwin Hendel was so supportive. He was the first person I met at the University of Minnesota and he made me feel like Minnesota was the place for me. First impressions are lasting ones! Rebecca Ropers-Huilman was my (tough) adviser. She really challenges your work (in a good way), and having her as an adviser is part of the reason I transitioned well into a faculty role. Furthermore, her Gender and Higher Education course changed who I am as a person. I really grew as a person during that class thanks to Rebecca and my classmates.

What skills are important to succeed as a young professional today?

#SWAG. My students will tell you I often talk about (swag)ger, or a confidence about yourself. People often sell themselves short for various reasons even though they have the skill set to be successful. My message to them is "turn your swag on." And you thought swag was dead?