Mitchell College Strives to be a Movement

Mitchell College has spent 2022 preparing to meet the new needs of students and the community as it builds forward to ensure student success. With its newly launched five-year strategic plan, “Illuminating Mitchell College’s Future: A Bold Plan for a Kaleidoscope of Learners,” Mitchell College is poised to welcome 2023 with an exciting slate of new programs and initiatives, expanding opportunities for its kaleidoscope of learners while providing holistic supports to help each individual student reach their greatest potential.

This plan will continue to move the college forward, deepening connections and service to the community, serving a greater and more diverse student body through expanded, industry-demand programs and aligning infrastructure with the needs of the students of today and in the future.

“First and foremost, Mitchell College is committed to being a community of belonging for our broad group of learners,” said President Tracy Y. Espy, Ph.D. “This is the place where they can come to meet their educational needs, learn other valuable life skills and, through advocacy and support, discover their true potential. Mitchell strives to be a movement in educating a kaleidoscope of learners, not just an institution.”

In 2022, Mitchell College successfully achieved a $1 million match to its record-breaking $3 million gift from earlier in the year and, thanks to help from U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT), recently received $550,000 in federal funding to support its new Digital Innovation Hub for Educational Excellence (DIHEE).

The DIHEE, preparing to launch in January, will “upskill” the adult regional workforce, offering industry-demand programs via certifications, badges, micro-credentials and advanced credentials in the STEM and mental health fields. Located in the Mitchell College Library, the DIHEE will provide technical and learning support via written and video resources and live sessions, as well as opportunities for peer engagement. The DIHEE aligns with the workforce development goals laid out by Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont and will meet the needs of the region.

Answering another community need, Mitchell College will introduce in 2023 a post-graduate learning program with multi-level supports for neurodivergent individuals. Skills Training, Advancement and Individual Readiness (STAIR), a 1- to 2-year program, builds on the inclusive nature of the Mitchell College educational experience by offering more recent college graduates additional guidance, tools and support for their next steps of career or graduate school. The program includes two main components:  AIM Basics, focused on independent living, career readiness, social and interpersonal skills and holistic wellness, with the goal of developing self-sufficiency and independence; and Program Hubs, which include a choice of focus on either career preparation or academic exploration and graduate school preparedness.

Programs to support student mental wellness at Mitchell will also be launched in 2023:

  • Thanks to funding from the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, Mitchell College will offer the BLOSSOM Project, which aims to teach female students, spanning the range of neurodiversity, to set safe boundaries with friends and partners, critical to a healthy environment where all can learn and thrive in safety. The project will include group workshops to educate, train, raise awareness and build self-confidence for students to “blossom” as they develop and strengthen their sense of self-worth. It also includes a “Women’s Empowerment” event, open to the public, that will be both a celebration and a powerful, motivating educational event.
  • Mitchell College is also participating in a nationwide initiative of The Jed Foundation (JED), designed to help institutions evaluate and strengthen their mental health, substance misuse and suicide prevention programs and systems to ensure that schools have the strongest possible mental health safety net. After completing a self-assessment, Mitchell will collaborate over four years with JED to implement enhancements.
  • College-age young adults may be more susceptible to problem gambling. Mitchell College, through a grant from the Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling, and in partnership with local experts, will promote Problem Gambling Awareness through activities that promote healthy and responsible decisions around gambling.  Activities include information sessions from area casinos, gambling addiction experts and those in recovery, and training to help campus staff to recognize signs of gambling-related problems.

Watch for announcements early next year as Mitchell College continues to launch industry-driven programming, including new majors in computer sciences and business management and an exciting master-level partnership with the University of Saint Joseph.

A wave of momentum is building on the beautiful beachfront campus of Mitchell College, where commitment to students and community will continue to deepen and grow in 2023 and beyond.






Funding to Help Upskill Regional Workforce

U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney (D-CT) recently visited the Mitchell College campus to present the College with newly released Community Project funding of $550,000 for its Digital Innovation Hub for Educational Excellence (DIHEE). Mitchell College President Tracy Y. Espy, Ph.D., received the check on behalf of the College, joined by trustees Michael J. O’Connor and Nancy Dolan, New London Mayor Michael Passero, State Representative Anthony Nolan, Mitchell College students Aizhane Glenn, Nia Gethers and Thomas Simmons, as well as other College stakeholders involved in the project.

Courtney was instrumental in securing the funding for the DIHEE, which will offer industry-demand programs via certifications, badges, micro-credentials and advanced credentials in STEM and Mental Health fields. Karen Bellnier, director of digital innovation, was hired to administer the program, partnering with college officials and professional organizations to develop new programming.

Bellnier said, “The DIHEE marks a new direction for Mitchell College and allows us to meet the learning needs of the adult regional workforce. Learners will engage with micro-credential learning, dubbed ‘the Mitchell Micro,’ to prepare to earn industry certifications and strengthen business skills. Learner support is a key component of the Mitchell Micro, and the Hub will provide help with tools and technology, learning success and connecting with careers and community, digitally and on campus. Located in the Mitchell College Library, the Hub will provide technical and learning support via written and video resources and live sessions, and opportunities for peer engagement.”

Professional certification preparation includes IT, cybersecurity and project management, as well as Lean Six Sigma Yellow & Green. Courses will prepare learners to take certification exams and provide vouchers to take the exam.

The Mitchell College Library will house flexible learning and collaboration spaces and provide access to computers and support staff for the digital learning supported by the Digital Innovation Hub.

President Espy said, “Meeting the needs of the community and regional industry to prepare the workforce for in-demand careers is paramount to the well-being of our region and our state. The DIHEE provides access, connectedness and flexibility to a whole new group of learners who are seeking to upskill and expand their job opportunities. We are grateful that Congressman Courtney supports Mitchell College’s vision to support and grow Connecticut’s workforce in alignment with the state’s workforce development goals, and the needs of the region.”






Taino Chief Shares Indigenous Caribbean History

At a recent program sponsored by Mitchell College’s Multicultural Student Union, Chief Jorge Baracutei Estevez spoke about the history, spirituality and culture of the indigenous Higuayagua Taino people of the Caribbean in celebration of Native American Heritage Month.

A lifelong researcher and investigator of Caribbean indigenity, Chief Estevez worked for 25 years for the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian. He continues his research through Higuayagua: Taino of the Caribbean, a non-profit organization established in 2011 to provide educational, cultural and linguistic resources to anyone wanting to connect with their Indigenous Caribbean ancestry.

“Today we are reliving and reviving our culture,” he said. The Higuayagua Taino tribe currently has more than 2,000 members.

Chief Estevez told the audience that Taino were the tribe encountered by Christopher Columbus in 1492.

We discovered Columbus,” he said, noting that Columbus and his crew were lost and wound up on the island — “our home” — populated by Taino.

He said that after 1565, the Spanish proclaimed the Taino people extinct, a notion that is untrue. Although the Taino people disappeared from paper, Chief Estevez said family histories kept Taino alive. As he was growing up in the Dominican Republic, he said that his mother and others in his community identified as “Indian.”

“The Taino language left a deep imprint” on the Spanish language and the English language, with many words deriving from the Taino language, such as canoe, hammock, maize and tobacco.

Through his work with the Smithsonian, Chief Estevez spent eight years visiting several countries in the Caribbean to research indigenity, studying eight markers — identity, oral tradition, material culture, customs/traditions, agricultural practices, language, spirituality and DNA/Genetics — and countering the myth of extinction.

Retelling the history of the Taino indigenous people helps dispel that myth.

“Instead of creating a narrative, let people decide it for themselves,” he said.


AmeriCorps VISTA Helps Build Service-Learning Program

Megan Griffin, Mitchell College’s AmeriCorps VISTA, has a wealth of organizing and community development experience from across the United States and beyond. When she had the opportunity to bring her skills to Mitchell – which she describes as a “hidden gem” – she took it. During her one-year term of service (through August 2023), she is charged with building the architecture of a service-learning program for Mitchell.

“This particular project really piqued my interest,” she said. “As someone with experiences in community organizing, as well as academic research, the notion of helping students to feel more embedded in the local community and helping them discover and develop their potential as agents of change really resonated with me,” she said.

Megan cites several reasons for why it is important for students to connect to the larger community.

“As one of my professors used to say: Mentis vita pro vita mundi—the life of the mind for the life of the world. Mitchell is all about developing the power of unique minds, and I think each student here has particular experiences, skills and understandings of the world that are important to share with the community,” she said.

“I also think this experiential learning opportunity will complement students’ education, and help them to think creatively, systemically and independently about social, environmental and economic challenges and help them explore how to apply their education to meet any challenge, be it professional, personal or social.”

“Lastly,” she said, “I think it’s a wonderful way for students to learn more about themselves, and to develop their interests, values and commitments.”

To better understand the current interests of students in service-learning, Megan created a brief online survey for them to complete and has been doing other outreach.

“So far, a little over 100 respondents have taken the survey. That gives us some helpful insight into what issues, organizations and service-based activities interest them. I’ve also been tabling, visiting classrooms and speaking one-on-one with students about this new opportunity,” she said.

She said that she has begun to develop a rapport with some students and feels inspired by their interest in a diversity of issues and how they conceive of community work and their role in the community.

Although it can be challenging to appeal to busy students, Megan said, “the novelty of this project also provides more opportunity for students to give meaningful input in shaping what service-learning at Mitchell will become.”

After completing her time in the AmeriCorps VISTA program, Megan, who will receive her master’s degree in rural sociology from Penn State in December, said that she would like to pursue a career in higher education, “ideally in a position that engages with the public good. Colleges and universities are such a hub for self-discovery, self-exploration and the creation of new knowledge. These are things that could be applied to address the ‘wicked problems,’ inequities and injustices facing our world.”






















Mitchell Welcomes New Trustees

The Mitchell College Board of Trustees is proud to announce six new members who have been welcomed over the last year. New trustees include Andrew Koha, assistant vice president of government relations at Principle LTC; Cornell Yarbrough, DJ and founder of Whutever it takes DJ Academy, and Mitchell College alumnus; Kerin Da Cruz, senior vice president and chief nursing officer for L+M Healthcare/Yale New Haven Health; Norman Solomon, J.D., entrepreneur; Jason Guyot, president and CEO of Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mitchell College alumnus; and Michael J. O’Connor, site vice president of Dominion Energy’s Millstone Power Station.

Board of Trustees Chair Richard D’Avino said, “Together with my fellow trustees, I am thrilled to welcome these six new colleagues to the Mitchell College Board of Trustees. They perfectly represent the breadth and diversity of the vibrant Mitchell College community, including senior executives of three of Connecticut’s largest and most successful employers, a Mitchell College parent, experts in healthcare and distinguished Mitchell alumni. I know that the entire community joins me in thanking each of them for their dedication and service to Mitchell College.

The new trustees join the board at a time of growth and transformation at Mitchell College, as the college embarks on its new strategic plan, strengthens outreach in the community, builds new partnerships, and develops new programming aligned with workforce, community and student needs.”

Initiatives currently in development or underway include the Digital Innovation Hub for Educational Excellence, which will drive industry-demand curricular offerings in STEM and behavioral health; a partnership with University of Saint Joseph to offer its Master of Social Work program on the Mitchell campus; and a dual-enrollment partnership with New London Public Schools, providing opportunities for New London High School students to gain both college credit and experience through on-campus Mitchell College coursework.

The addition of the expertise and talent of these six newest trustees to an already extraordinary Board of Trustees comes at an exciting time for Mitchell College.

Mitchell Joins Great Northeast Athletic Conference

Starting in the 2023-2024 academic year, Mitchell College will be a core member — one of 16 schools — of the Great Northeast Athletic Conference. The move comes after Mitchell’s current conference, the New England Collegiate Conference, will cease to be an NCAA Division III Athletic Conference, as of Fall 2023.

The larger conference provides Mitchell’s 12 varsity sports – baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s golf, men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s soccer, softball and women’s volleyball – the opportunity for all programs to compete in the NCAA tournament should they win the conference tournament.

Dr. Tracy Y. Espy, Mitchell College president, said, “Mitchell College is honored to have been invited to join the Great Northeast Athletic Conference. Being part of the GNAC is a huge win for our coaches, students and the institution as a whole. We look forward to being in great company with the other GNAC institutions of excellence.”

New England College is also joining the GNAC next fall. Other member institutions include Albertus Magnus College, Anna Maria College, Colby-Sawyer College, Dean College, Elms College, Emmanuel College, Johnson & Wales University, Lasell University, Norwich University, Regis College, Rivier University, University of Saint Joseph, Saint Joseph’s College of Maine and Simmons University.

“The addition of Mitchell and New England College will provide continued stability to our current 22 championship offerings, and possibly allow for more GNAC championship opportunities in the future,” said Joe Walsh, commissioner of the GNAC. “The geographical location of the two schools also allows our administrators to discuss further divisional play options, while it also helps reduce student-athlete missed class time academically.”

Matt Finlayson, Mitchell College director of athletics, said, “The GNAC is a wonderful fit for us that will have a positive impact for all of our student-athletes and programs. Becoming a member of the GNAC provides us with an opportunity to continue to grow and enhance athletics. It’s regionally located and is comprised of members that we can compete with while sharing similar institutional values. We are excited and looking forward to the future in the GNAC.”