Dennis Mitchell Appointed Executive Vice President for University Life

August 17, 2021

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community:

I am delighted to share that I have appointed Dennis Mitchell to be the next Executive Vice President for University Life. While taking on this new role, Dennis will also serve as Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Advancement and will continue to hold his faculty appointment at the College of Dental Medicine.

An expert clinician, researcher, and administrator, Dennis has devoted his 30-year career at Columbia to strengthening our community, perhaps most notably through his commitment to fostering an inclusive campus climate for new and rising faculty members. He is a natural leader for University Life’s critical work of building community among the next generation of thought leaders, researchers, and innovators—our students.

Dennis joined Columbia in 1991 after receiving his doctorate in dental surgery from Howard University. His academic work has focused on the oral health needs of underserved populations and the diversity of healthcare professionals. In 2004, he became the first Assistant Dean for Diversity and Multicultural Affairs at an American dental school and in the years since has been responsible for a nearly seven-fold increase in the percentage of dental students from underrepresented backgrounds. Dennis has previously worked as the Director of the Harlem component of the Community DentCare Network for Columbia and as Director of Research and Community Dentistry at Harlem Hospital.

For the last seven years Dennis has served in the Office of the Provost, helping to oversee the University’s now more than $185 million investment in faculty diversity. Under his leadership, our program has grown from one grounded in recruitment to one also focused on retention and professional advancement. The number of women and underrepresented minorities among tenured and untenured faculty has increased steadily, important programmatic additions have been made to faculty orientation, and new opportunities have been put in place to recognize invaluable faculty service and mentoring. Just within the last year, Dennis and his team initiated a Race and Racism cluster hire program, launched grants to fund faculty antiracism work, facilitated an anti-Black racism conference with the School of Social Work, and held events focused on the role of universities in advancing racial justice. And Dennis helped lead a University-wide review to provide recommendations on furthering our institutional commitment to antiracism. Importantly, this work is ongoing and Dennis will continue to drive it forward. For example, he will be overseeing a new Inclusive Faculty Pathways initiative within the Office of the Provost, a program designed to enhance not only our own faculty diversity, but that of academia at large by strengthening opportunities for talented, underrepresented students to advance through our graduate programs and to pursue careers in the professoriate.

As EVP for University Life, Dennis will draw upon his extensive experience in diversity, equity, and inclusion to advance the mission of University Life: to best serve the needs of Columbia’s students and to engage with them on issues of campus-wide interest and importance, including community citizenship, mental health and wellbeing, inclusion and belonging, sexual respect, and antiracism.

On behalf of all of us, I want to extend our gratitude to Dennis for taking on the important responsibilities of University Life.


Lee C. Bollinger