Dennis Mitchell Elected to National Diversity Leadership Role


Dennis Mitchell, DDS, MPH, was elected to the board of directors of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education, the most pre-eminent voice for diversity in higher education in the U.S., as announced on Feb. 5. Dr. Mitchell, Vice Provost for Faculty Diversity and Inclusion for Columbia University in the City of New York and Senior Associate Dean for Diversity for the Columbia University College of Dental Medicine, will serve a three-year term, bringing his efforts to the national level. In further recognition of his leadership, he was also featured last week on the Innovators podcast speaking about the cost universities and societies pay when they lack diversity. Dr. Mitchell's impact has already been felt across Columbia University. 

At the university-wide level, he implements programmatic elements of Columbia’s ongoing $100-million financial commitment to expanding faculty diversity. And at the dental school, where he is Senior Associate Dean for Diversity, he leads programs focused on underrepresented minority student enrollment and development, including pipeline programs to help college students embark on the path to careers in the health professions. Dr. Mitchell joined the CDM faculty in 1991, first as a clinical investigator. He has conducted widely-cited oral health research, and established the Office of Diversity Affairs in 2004. Under Dr. Mitchell’s leadership, the predoctoral student body's underrepresented minority population has spiked from just 3 percent in 2003 to at least 20 percent in each 80-student class. The school has won national awards for diversity and inclusion from Insight into Diversity every year since 2014.

Columbia has made great strides through Dr. Mitchell’s efforts, which focus on not just recruitment but larger initiatives to offer access, inclusion and creating an environment where people can thrive. But for all universities, there is still much work ahead, and the stakes are high.

Without sufficient efforts, he told the Innovators podcast,  “We are leaving on the table great minds and opportunities to solve the complex problems in front of us.” Thanks to Dr. Mitchell's new leadership role, he can expand his work to bring more diverse talent to universities, and through them, the greater world. 

Listen to the full interview