Mitchell wins Faculty Award for Academic Outreach
The Georgia Institute of Technology has selected Cassie Mitchell as the 2020 recipient of the Faculty Award for Academic Outreach, which is administered by the Center for Teaching and Learning. The award recognizes faculty members for productive academic outreach going beyond their normal duties to enrich the larger educational community with their subject matter knowledge.
A tenure-track assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering (BME) at Georgia Tech and Emory University, Mitchell has made educational and community outreach a significant part of her service efforts. According to Ajit Yognathan, chair of the BME Awards Committee, “Dr. Mitchell goes above and beyond to use her research and educational expertise to enrich the community, from elementary to high school students, patient advocacy and support groups.”
On Mitchell’s desk is a sign that says, “Never, never, never give up.” It says volumes about her. As a C5-6 wheelchair-bound quadriplegic, from neuromyelitis optica and as a current cancer patient still taking chemotherapy, she says she has, “an intimate understanding of the impact of pathologies and a passion to leverage my personal and scientific research experiences to positively impact lives.”
It’s her role as a researcher whose work impacts patients that matters most to Mitchell, who is a researcher in the Petit Institute for Bioengineering and Bioscience at Georgia Tech. “A high service impact factor alone will not get me tenure, a million-dollar research grant, or a Nobel prize, but it gives me something far more important,” she notes. “Hope, faith, and peace of mind that I am doing what I was called to do, to serve.”
It’s a mission she’s taken seriously. She’s been the Georgia Tech site director for the Fulton County high school internship program, a leader and research advisor in REU (research experience for undergraduates) programs that focus on diversity and inclusion, and she coordinates at least two outreach activities every semester, all of them related to patient populations for which her lab does research (ALS, Alzheimer’s, aging, spinal cord and brain injury, cancer, etc.).
Unofficially known as “The Counselor of Last Resort,” Mitchell volunteers at five Atlanta area clinics and rehabilitation hospitals, where she has personally mentored patients, often called in to help when other counselors have failed, applying a combination of scientific and personal knowledge. A U.S. Paralympic athlete in the 2012 and 2016 global games, among her many other outreach endeavors are voluntary motivational talks in area schools, where she talks about overcoming challenges, “I also talk about engineering and try to use engineering examples in everyday life to motivate the next generation of STEM professionals.”
And through her work beyond the traditional duties of an educator and researcher, Mitchell has developed a reputation and is in demand. According to Carolyn McCarthy-Jackson, gifted internship advisor for Fulton County Schools, “Dr. Mitchell is now one of the most requested in our program. Programs like ours thrive because of the mentoring Dr. Mitchell provides. She has inspired many future researchers in the biomedical field.”
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