Terrence Mitchell, chief diversity and inclusion officer of Edinboro University, was named a special assistant to the president for diversity and inclusion effective Aug. 10.
During the early days of his appointment, he is meeting with groups across campus, including the diversity and inclusion strategic planning committee and the President’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Diversity.
Mitchell’s appointment is an example of one of the first services to be shared between Slippery Rock and Edinboro. Diversity, purchasing and grants are the pilot services in the initial collaboration with the two universities.
While Mitchell believes the shared services are practical in times of financial strain, he felt that he could help President Behre accomplish his goals in the role as his special assistant.
“I don’t take jobs from using something,” Mitchell said. “I want, I need to be of use, and when the president talked to me about what he wanted me to do at Slippery Rock, I felt like I could help.”
Mitchell will spend 65% of his time working for Edinboro and the remaining 35% working for Slippery Rock.
Mitchell considers himself a practical chief diversity officer, as his experience in various leadership positions in higher education helped him become resource oriented. This was especially useful in his conversation with Edinboro’s president, Guiyou Huang, about the potential to work at Slippery Rock.
“We had a very short conversation, he said, ‘Terrence, we want to do this,’ and after he explained it, he said, ‘Well, I want you to talk to me about it,'” Mitchell said. “I said, ‘well, I can just do it.”
In addition to completing his Ph.D. in Administration and Leadership Studies at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Mitchell also served in various roles at Allegheny College for 12 years, including assistant to the president for institutional diversity. SRU will be his fourth place of higher education in western Pennsylvania.
Mitchell believes that western Pennsylvania is more diverse than people believe because of different intersections of identity.
“I think, just like any other school though, we need to appoint people to help guide the discussion and help make sure that the discussion continues,” Mitchell said. “The diversity efforts we come up with won’t be my ideas, they’ll be the ideas of the campus and its campus community, and we’ll meet the needs of the campus community.”
Mitchell is also considering the possibility of a collaboration of students from Slippery Rock and Edinboro. For example, a discussion or other event held at Edinboro would be free for students from both universities.
“We have students who are very passionate about diversity at Slippery Rock, we have students who are very passionate about diversity at Edinboro,” Mitchell said. “Well then let’s listen sometimes gather together to share them, to share those ideas.”
As part of his introductions to the university, Mitchell has met with groups across campus, including the diversity and inclusion strategic planning committee. Cindy LaCom, director of the gender studies program, and Lyosha Gorshkov, assistant director of the pride and women’s centers, were two people who originally met with Mitchell as part of this group.
After meeting with President Behre’s new special assistant, Lyosha sees Mitchell as a direct connection between diversity and inclusion issues and the University Cabinet.
“I think that Dr. Mitchell’s appointment would benefit the campus as he will be, by default, performing the duties of the Chief Diversity Officer that campus had lacked for the last year or more,” Gorshkov said. “It means a more systematic and institutional vision of diversity and inclusion. In my eyes Dr. Mitchell is a direct bridge between the Cabinet and the outside world – the world of students, staff and faculty who have been working hard to combat the injustices on the campus and raise multiple issues that sometimes are dismissed or overlooked or gone unnoticed. I sincerely hope that Dr. Mitchell would be able to acknowledge all of these efforts and make sure that the Cabinet sees it as well.”
LaCom acknowledged that while they wish SRU has a chief diversity officer, they appreciate the appointment of Clitha Mason as SRU’s first Frederick Douglass Fellow. They also see an opportunity to find room for improvement by the end of the year.
“I’m also grateful to the work that the President’s Commission on Race and Ethnic Diversity has done and is continuing to do to provide resources to our campus community and to collect data,” LaCom said. “We’ll have a clearer sense of room for improvement by year’s end, I think. The changes to SRU need to be deep, structural and ongoing.”
Editor’s note: Cindy LaCom’s and Lyosha Gorshkov’s statements were received via email due to an unforeseen illness on the reporter’s part.