The end of an era: Mitchell says goodbye after four years

Photo provided by Wanda Mitchell
Photo provided by Wanda Mitchell
Photo provided by Wanda Mitchell
Photo provided by Wanda Mitchell

As VCU continues its ongoing mission to increase diversity and inclusion on campus, it’s important to note the faculty members who have been vital in that process.

The founding Vice President for Inclusive Excellence, Wanda Mitchell, has been at the crux of VCU’s progress.

Acting as a cornerstone in students’ conversations on diversity, Mitchell was the founding officer for Inclusive Excellence. In June, she stepped down from the post and is currently the Special Assistant to President Michael Rao for University Strategic Initiatives and Collaborations.

On November 11, 2015, VCU students assembled on the Compass to stand in solidarity for the students at the University of Missouri. Mitchell and other faculty joined the students to hear their concerns.

“People can tell when you’re genuine and authentic, and when you’re fair and you’re honest,” Mitchell said. “Sometimes just listen, and don’t get all caught up into it and go into defensive mode. Just listen.”

Kevin Allison, a professor in the department of psychology and the Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, took over Mitchell’s position as VP for Inclusive Excellence. He focuses his work on understanding positive developmental outcomes for African American children and youth.

“His one advantage is he knows VCU. He’s been here 20 something years,” Mitchell said. “He brings that to the role.”

Mitchell said while the numbers show great diversity at VCU, the university still has a long way to go.

“Just because we have diverse students doesn’t mean we’re inclusive,” Mitchell said.

Because of that, a main focus of her career as been not only on increasing diversity but the inclusiveness of all races, genders and cultures, as well.

“That’s why after my first year I wanted the office to change to Inclusive Excellence,” Mitchell said. “We are advancing diversity and inclusion, looking at excellence as an academic institution and a public urban institution.”

Mitchell is familiar with racism in schools; it wasn’t until fifth grade that she attended a desegregated school in her small hometown of Allendale, S.C.

Once in college, Mitchell earned her B.S. in psychology from Georgia Southern University, M.A. in community agency counseling from Hampton University and her Ed.D. in counseling from Tech College of William and Mary. She has spent decades in different administrative and teaching positions at multiple universities.

She said she believes that her beginnings as a young girl doing during the civil rights movement has helped her teach diversity and inclusion throughout her career.

“I think it gives me a point of reference and I know how it feels to be the voiceless, the invisible,” Mitchell said. “I know in the struggle, and in the fight, that you have to pull together with all persons to build a coalition.”

Mitchell hopes to continue acting as a mentor both in and out of the VCU community. She said looking back at her beginnings in small town in South Carolina she was able to rise to leadership roles because of the people in her own life.

“I am where I am because people who have mentored me,” Mitchell said.


marylee clark. photo by sarah kingMary Lee Clark
Mary Lee is a senior studying journalism. She currently interns for RVAmag and, in addition to writing for the CT. She previously worked as a makeup artist at Darkwood Manor, did lighting design at Trackside Theater (where she is now on the Board of Directors) and photographed for the Page News and Courier.
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