Remembering Dr. Wanda Mitchell


Wanda Mitchell, EdD, the former vice president for inclusive excellence at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond, passed away on July 31, 2017, at the age of 57.

As the university’s inaugural chief diversity officer, Mitchell led VCU in developing, implementing, and assessing strategic initiatives that promote diversity and inclusion on campus. She “[challenged] us to think about diversity in new ways and to double-down on our efforts to be more inclusive,” VCU President Michael Rao, PhD, told VCU News in August. He went on to describe her leadership style as “insightful, empathetic, and spectacularly kind.”

Prior to joining VCU, Mitchell served as vice provost for faculty development and inclusive excellence at the University of New Hampshire (UNH) in Durham. During her tenure there, she led professional development and mentoring programs for faculty, oversaw the implementation and assessment of strategic diversity initiatives across all departments, and led efforts to increase scholarships and funding for diversity.

Her work at VCU and UNH, as well as her time as department chair and university endowed professor of education at Hampton University in Virginia, comprise a career in higher education that spanned more than three decades.

During her 30 years in academia, she was an active member of a variety of professional associations and boards, including the Board of Directors of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education (NADOHE) and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities’ Commission on Access, Diversity, and Excellence. In 2009, she received the Women of Courage and Conviction Award for Education from the National Council of Negro Women Greater Boston Section.

In addition to her many professional responsibilities, Mitchell dedicated herself to civic work, serving on the boards of the Rochester Visiting Nurse Association, which provides in-home healthcare services; the Portsmouth Black Heritage Trail, an organization that honors the history of the African American community in New Hampshire; and the Seacoast chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Mitchell earned a bachelor of science in psychology from Georgia Southern University, a master of arts in community counseling from Hampton University, and a doctorate in counseling from the College of William & Mary. In addition, she received a certificate in professional coaching from UNH.

“I will always remember Wanda for her tremendous commitment to diversity and inclusion in higher education and for her amazing sense of humor. Her passing is a tremendous loss to everyone who knew her,” said Lenore Pearlstein, co-publisher of INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine.

According to Florence Johnson, who served under Mitchell in the Division for Inclusive Excellence at VCU, “she mentored many — both students and staff — and established the foundational springboard of inclusive excellence [at VCU] that we continue to build on. That is a powerful legacy.”●

This article was published in our March 2018 issue.