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Academics Campus & Community

CSB and SJU hire inaugural senior diversity officer

Sandra Mitchell, who has served as the director of equity and inclusion at St. Catherine University in St. Paul since 2019, will become the inaugural senior diversity officer at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, CSB and SJU Joint President Brian Bruess announced Thursday.

Mitchell, who was selected after an extensive nationwide search, will begin her new role on Jan. 2, 2023. She earned her education specialist degree in educational leadership and innovation from the University of Colorado at Denver, and both her master’s degree in higher education and her bachelor’s degree in psychology from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

“Sandra is a seasoned and influential leader in higher education and will be a strategic thought-partner to me, serving as a member of the CSB and SJU leadership team,”  Bruess wrote in a letter to the campus community announcing Mitchell’s hiring.

In her new role at CSB and SJU, Bruess said Mitchell will be a proactive voice for unifying stakeholders across the two campuses and beyond toward a foundational vision for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice (DEIJ) initiatives.

Among her efforts will be:

  • Integrating DEIJ content throughout the student experience (curricular and co-curricular) toward improved student engagement, belonging and success.
  • Building bold and contemporary strategies to recruit, retain and develop a more diverse community of faculty, staff and students.
  • Fostering diverse, inclusive and caring campus climates, as well as aligning and integrating a wide range of existing and new initiatives to build on a culture of equity, inclusion, belonging and justice.
  • Collaborating with local community leaders and organizations to promote and champion equity and inclusion in the wider community.

“Both CSB and SJU believe that an excellent liberal arts education requires cultural competence and an ability to live and work in ways where all feel valued and respected,” Bruess wrote. “To that end, we continue to examine our own practices and systems; embrace a full commitment to developing an inclusive environment incorporated in all decision-making processes; and are dedicated to cultivating an equitable, inclusive and just community founded on the belief that all persons inherently deserve respect and dignity.

“The position of senior diversity officer will help us put in place the structures and systems that will allow this community to live up to our Benedictine ideals: that of creating communities in which all know they belong, and in which each member expands toward becoming a more empathic member of a just and beloved world.”

During her time at St. Catherine, Mitchell helped guide the creation and led the implementation of an institution-wide inclusive excellence plan. She also developed a shared vision for inclusive excellence, designed plans, programs and activities to educate and engage members of the community to hold inclusive excellence as a core value to be collectively practiced and fostered a climate of respect for diversity and equity that was inclusive of all community members.

In addition, she provided leadership and assessment of professional development opportunities for faculty and staff in areas of systemic racism, inclusive excellence, diversity, equity and inclusion toward supporting a dynamic and culturally relevant learning environment and advised the president and senior vice president for human resources, equity and inclusion on matters related to equity and inclusion.

Sandra standing in front of windows

Sandra Mitchell