About Academic Innovators

Brian C. Mitchell

Brian C. Mitchell is the president and managing principal of Academic Innovators. He also served as president of Brian Mitchell & Associates (2012 -2017) from which Academic Innovators emerged, and The Edvance Foundation. Supported by foundations and corporations, including the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Edvance produced the largest study undertaken of pathway protocols and procedures undertaken in the United States – Strengthening the Transfer Pathway, with over 400 colleges and universities participating.

From 2004 to 2010, Mitchell served as president and the first CEO of Bucknell University, where he hired nearly 60 tenure-track professors in three years, lowering the student faculty ratio from 12/1 to 10/1.  Mitchell launched the University’s recently completed $500 million capital campaign, raising almost $170 million from all sources in 30 months during the height of the Great Recession.  Mitchell established the School of Management, now the College of Management, creating four new majors within it, the Bucknell Environmental Center, including building “Bucknell Landing” on the Susquehanna River, the Bucknell Institute for Public Policy, and the Teaching and Learning Center.  He merged academic and student affairs, approved a new curriculum for the College of Arts and Sciences, and fostered a strong Middle States University-wide reaccreditation and ABET accreditation for the College of Engineering.  In 2009, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry named Bucknell one of the “best places to work in Pennsylvania” among the state’s top 50 large employers as ranked by employee survey and a review of policies and practices.

Dr. Mitchell led the team that raised over $25 million to redefine town/gown relationships to create a new 28,000 sq. ft. University bookstore, new administrative offices in a renovated, working central post office, a restored art deco theatre, business incubator, and art space in downtown Lewisburg in four years from state, federal, and private sources.  He joined KINBER, a $128 million statewide federally funded, Pennsylvania-based broadband partnership to permit data intense research and link rural areas to the internet. Mitchell constructed or renovated the new state-of-the art soccer, field hockey and women’s lacrosse facilities, reconstructed the Burger Fitness Center, rebuilt the baseball and softball facilities, Rooke Chapel and refurbished most of the Elaine Langone Student Center.  He completed the planning and first fundraising for the new academic quadrangle and new student residential village.  Mitchell also opened three POSSE chapters at Bucknell and established the Bucknell Community College Scholars program.  Recognizing the University’s institutional strength in management and finances, Moody’s raised Bucknell’s bond rating to a strong Aa2 even before the University began its comprehensive campaign.

Mitchell previously served as president of Washington & Jefferson College (1998-2004) where he rebuilt the campus, planning and constructing new business and technology buildings, new residence halls and special purpose housing, the restoration of Cameron Stadium and the creation of a 7.6-acre artificial turf complex for football, soccer and lacrosse.  He also created the Swanson Wellness Center and Brooks Park.  Mitchell supported a new liberal arts curriculum and added majors in biochemistry, child development and education, information technology leadership, international business, music, and theatre and communications.  During Mitchell’s tenure, W & J dropped the College’s acceptance rate to 40% and increased average SAT scores by 44 points.   During the comprehensive campaign, Mitchell raised an additional $84 million in new resources.

Dr. Mitchell also led the Association for Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania (1991-1998) where he led the battle to preserve the tax exempt status of Pennsylvania’s independent colleges and universities in what became the bellwether case nationally following the challenge by the City of Washington to the tax exempt status of Washington & Jefferson College.  The case reached the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and remains a definitive court ruling in American law.

By training, Dr. Mitchell is an immigration and labor historian and the author of the acclaimed book, The Paddy Camps: The Irish of Lowell, 1821-1861 (University of Illinois Press, 1988), and numerous articles, op eds, and book reviews in the field.

Mitchell served as a trustee and the past chair of the Board of Trustees of Merrimack College.

He is also a past chair of the Pennsylvania Selection Committee for the Rhodes Scholarships, the Patriot League Athletic Conference (Division I), the National Association of Independent College and University State Executives, the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania (AICUP) and the President’s Athletic Conference (Division III).   Additionally, Mitchell has served as a director of the National Merit Scholarship Corporation, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, the Annapolis Group of 125 highly selective liberal arts colleges, and Geisinger Health System.

The POSSE Foundation awarded Mitchell the POSSE Award for Outstanding Achievement in Education Through Leadership in 2010.  The Council of Independent Colleges and the Foundation for Independent Colleges presented him with the Charles W.L. Foreman Award for Innovation in Private Higher Education in 2011. Mitchell is the first recipient in arts and humanities of the Haskell Award for Distinguished Teaching at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.  He has received numerous honorary degrees and scholarly awards, including those from the American Historical Association, American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the U.S. Department of the Interior (National Park Service).   To honor his service to the 90 independent colleges and universities in Pennsylvania, his colleague presidents named both the boardroom in the AICUP building in Harrisburg in his honor in 1998 and the Association’s award for entrepreneurialism and creativity in building cooperative partnerships for him in 2014.

Mitchell has written extensively and is widely quoted in the press.  Since 2012, he has contributed weekly higher education blogs for The Huffington Post and Academe (the journal of the American Association of University Professors).   Mitchell is a print and online contributor to College Management and PlanningUniversity Business MagazineDiverse Issues in Higher EducationBusiness Officers MagazineFOX News Online, and WGBH, the national public television and radio station in Boston.

Johns Hopkins University Press published his new book, co-authored with Dr. W. Joseph King, on How to Run a College: A Practical Guide for Trustees, Faculty, Administrators and Policymakers in January, 2018, now already in its fourth printing.  Together Drs. Mitchell and King are collaborating on their next book on How to Lead a College, scheduled for release in 2020.  He speaks and lectures widely.