Rutgers Graduate School of Education Welcomes Dr. Michelle Mitcham to the Department of Educational Psychology

Rutgers Graduate School of Education (GSE) welcomes Dr. Michelle Mitcham to the department of Educational Psychology. 

Dr. Mitcham comes to us from Florida’s A&M University where she provided clinical mental health counseling instruction. Dr. Mitcham’s focus is to help future education leaders and school counselors leverage their multicultural competencies to provide the best outcome for students from all walks of life.  

Dr. Mitcham shared more about her work and what she hopes to accomplish at the GSE: 

Why the GSE? 

“There were very specific statements about embracing and celebrating diversity and having an inclusive environment, and that’s part of my research and a part of everything that I do. DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) and being inclusive and speaking about intersectionality of all our diversity is near and dear to my heart. It’s part of my DNA and I guess everybody’s, but especially my background. So that spoke to me.” 

“I’ve been a professor since 2005, so I really liked the statements about the mission and vision, and what they want to do for students to cultivate the environment and the best school counselors. So that really spoke to me.”  

“I’m an advocate for embracing and celebrating diversity, and also increasing the multicultural competencies of counselors and teachers who deal with students all the way from K through 12, college and graduate school.” 

“When I was a school counselor years ago I was in a minority majority school, 70% minority … when I walked around the school and visited the gifted, honors and AP classes there were predominately Caucasian and that really concerned me, and I wondered what’s going on here because this school is so diverse I would think the AP and honors classes would be a reflection to the school’s demographic.” 

What did you find in your research that you use as talking points? 

“I saw that sometimes people have implicit bias and I think that many of the teachers, actually, whether they knew it or not sometimes people can have a deficit orientation about people that are different. Sometimes we equate, unknowingly, different with a deficit.” 

“I like to increase awareness, knowledge and skills, and I realized the different disciplines and experts in the school weren’t communicating with the people who do the referrals for the gifted, honors and AP weren’t necessarily taking to the school counselors, the people in special education or the school psychologists. So, I advocated for a multi-disciplinary team to have these conversations so that everybody is on the same page so they can be a united front and advocate for students.” Additionally, I have published on this topic in peer-reviewed journals to advocate for increasing multicultural competencies within our profession.  

Why did you decide to pursue education and counseling?  

“I realized there weren’t a lot of people that looked like me in counseling, especially in mental health in schools… We need to see more diverse people in the helping field because there is a stigma behind helping. A lot of times people do not want to ask for help depending on their culture or ethnicity, so I really wanted to destigmatize that and have more diverse people in helping roles. Further, I realized that I could make more of an impact in higher education preparing future counselors, both in school counseling and clinical mental health.”   

What do you hope to accomplish at the GSE? 

“I would like to leverage my leadership and administration experience to build upon the already great counseling program and help collaboratively take the program to another level, maybe think about CACREP accreditation for a Ph.D. program, counselor education and supervision which focused on the pedagogy…. about teaching doctoral students how to teach and the micro skills of teaching graduate school. I want to have an impact on the students as a mentor, advisor and also collaborate with the leadership and colleagues to charter the first chapter of Chi Sigma Iota at Rutgers. it is the international honor society for counselors … As a faculty advisor, I want to advocate for students to get involved, do research and present at national and international conferences… so students have myriad avenues to understand the counseling field and get connected by doing research. Also increase their multicultural competencies and have that world view and really see the global scene with counseling and see what we do is really important.” 

How do you wish to prepare our students at the GSE? 

“I want our school counselors to be confident in their helping, advocacy and multicultural competencies by raising awareness, knowledge, and skills. To be ready to deal with students from all levels of society, whether they come from lower socioeconomic status to an upper SES. I would like them to be multiculturally competent and leverage their multicultural competencies to have the best outcome for students because all students can dream. I want them to know that a student from an urban area verses a suburban area, I want them to see them and know that they can be doctors, lawyers, they can be anything, because a school counselor plays a very important role in the lives of students if they know people can see them.”