Diana Hill Mitchell
Associate Dean for Policy & Program Analysis
Washington University in St. Louis, The Graduate School
Gateway Institute of Technology
Washington University in St. Louis, BA Psychology
Princeton University, PhD, Social Psychology,
In short, what do you do?
I am responsible for policies in the Graduate School as well as working with departments on the development of new degree programs and certificates. Additionally, I have oversight of admissions, the registrar function, marketing and communications, and data analysis. I also am the director for the Olin Fellowship Program, an endowed fellowship established to support women in graduate study through full tuition and stipend support.
You’ve attended and worked for two elite universities. What’s your perspective on diversity progress in higher education?
I think institutions are genuinely concerned about providing access and support to students from diverse backgrounds - including underrepresented minorities, first-generation students, and students from socioeconomic backgrounds that are not resource rich. Overall higher education, particularly at elite institutions, is becoming more inclusive. There remain at least three challenges from my perspective: reaching high school students who are talented but not engaged in ‘pipeline programs’ to elite institutions; identifying and providing support for high need students who may receive full tuition and housing, but do not have monetary support for other necessities such as laptops, books, mental and physical health costs, etc; and developing points of entry that are not cost-prohibitive for students who had to leave college due to financial or personal circumstances. I think the extent of the progress made in higher education with respect to diversity will be determined by how well we are able to address those challenges in the next five years.
Throughout your career, you’ve shown dedication to creating pathways for more African-American students into higher ed. How did that become a passion of yours?
We do not live in a merit-based society. We live in a very carefully designed system that includes some, and intentionally excludes others. Many times, those excluded have talent that is equal to or exceeds that of their counterparts who have been offered all of the opportunities that have been designed for them. I cannot redesign the system, but I am deeply committed to providing access and counsel to those who lack the cultural capital to navigate it on their own. The reality is that no one is successful as an isolate in higher education.
Tell us about the “She Leads” symposium that you created.
She Leads is a symposium dedicated to providing space for women to be able to learn from each other, connect, and ideally leave with a greater goal or vision for themselves than the one they arrived with.
You had an impressive high school and college basketball career. Do you still play or coach?
I do not play or coach anymore, but I still enjoy watching the game across all three levels - high school, college, and professional basketball.
Tell us something great about St. Louis.
St. Louis is home to some of the greatest activists of the current generation. I honestly believe we will look back on this time period and be in awe of what they have accomplished. I am inspired often by their intelligence, spirit, and commitment to fight for a just world.