Rolanda Mitchell believes that Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) efforts are necessary because all students deserve to see someone like themselves in educational spaces and feel that higher education is an option for them.
“As a black woman raised in a rural, low-income community in North Carolina, I recognize that part of the reason I’m here is because I got to see and interact with other black people who were pursuing college education,” she said. . “As a result, earning a college degree seemed like a feasible option.”
Mitchell is currently an Assistant Professor in the Counselor Education Program and one of the Co-Chairs of the Council for Multicultural Initiatives & Diversity (COMID). She joined the NC State faculty in January 2018.
Mitchell does not believe it is possible to have strong and effective education systems if diversity, equity and inclusion are not prioritized and centered.
“The reality of our world includes barriers that prevent people from marginalized groups from having a high-quality K-12 education and seeing educators who are like them,” Mitchell said. “Barriers aren’t going to go away on their own, so it’s our job to be intentional to center diversity, equity and inclusion.”
Mitchell believes DEI’s efforts help ease barriers and give people the tools, confidence, and support to reach their full potential.
“As a result, we achieve a fair distribution of funding, stronger schools, graduates better equipped for careers and/or post-secondary education, and more efficient institutions of higher education,” she said.
Mitchell’s research interests include studying access to counseling and mental health services for historically marginalized communities. She has seen firsthand how COVID-19 has exacerbated the digital divide and created a significant barrier in low-income and rural communities.
Mitchell is also planning a study that examines how professional school counselors have handled the transition to virtual learning. She will gather information about the support they have received or lacked during the pandemic and how this has impacted their ability to provide counseling services to students and families.
“My hope is to raise awareness; I don’t think there can be too many,” she said. “But more than that, I hope all of our research inspires change.”
Recently, she was also asked to work on a collaborative project with Halifax County Schools, specifically with the School Guidance Service, for the 2022-23 school year.
“As a consultant, my job will be to tap into their existing skills, add additional training, and hopefully leave them feeling better equipped to support their schools with a strong comprehensive counseling program,” said Mitchell.
Another goal of this collaboration is to use research and data to demonstrate the hard work and progress being made in school guidance services in Halifax County.
“Often, schools and students in low-income districts are portrayed from a deficit model, highlighting what is wrong and suggesting that there is something inherently lacking in students, families, and educators” , she said. “That’s absolutely not the case… there’s talent and potential everywhere if you take the time to look.”
Mitchell’s role as an educator in the counselor training program also allows her to integrate DEI into her work.
“Our goal is to develop graduate counselors who have unconditional positive regard, empathy and hope for the students, clients and families they serve,” she said. “Additionally, we want them to value and practice advocacy in their community.”
In the counselor training program, the faculty strives to help students recognize and confront the inherent biases that all humans bring to the table, to unpack where it comes from, to challenge the beliefs that serve them and to prevent prejudice from interfering in their lives. counseling skills and techniques.
“In order to engage conversations, we use things like readings, case studies, media, and treatment questions,” Mitchell said. “It is also important that we provide a safe space so that all students can have honest discussions without fear of academic retaliation or prejudice from their peers.”
For fellow students and members of the NC State community, Mitchell encourages those not already familiar with COMID to attend their upcoming events.
This year, in collaboration with Professor and Senior Advisor for Advancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Joy Gaston Gayles, COMID hosted a series of discussions focusing on topics such as anti-racism and personal care while doing DEI work, tackling microaggressions and racial gaslighting.
Mitchell also recommends that those who engage in DEI work have the intention to take care of themselves.
“To engage fully and effectively, you need to be healthy and whole, mentally, physically, and spiritually,” she said. “So if you’re reading this, take a moment now and think about something you can do to recharge yourself, and then make time for it.”
This story was written by Jayla Moody