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Week of November 14, 2011


Program manager brings creative passion to 
Rackham students, ministry

From the age of 3, the Rev. Dr. Debby Mitchell knew that she loved poetry. By the time she was 8, she was reading it at local churches. In 1995 she was a published poet and began touring the country and South Africa performing her original works. “My first poems were about nature or surviving teenage years; personal expressions. Now they are inspirational,” she says.

Her artistic nature never subsiding, Mitchell now uses her talents to help people, both as a student affairs program manager for Rackham Graduate School, and as an ordained minister.

Photo by Austin Thomason, U-M Photo Services.

“I enjoy working with students and giving them opportunities to succeed,” Mitchell says. “My great joy is interacting with the many students we help achieve their academic and professional goals.”

At Rackham she manages the Michigan Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) program. The Michigan AGEP also includes Michigan State University, Wayne State University, Western Michigan University and Michigan Technological University. Mitchell is responsible for ensuring that the overall program goals are met at all five universities.

The AGEP is a program for underrepresented minorities seeking doctoral degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and social, behavioral and economic sciences. The program aims to recruit, retain and help develop these students from their undergraduate years through placement in a professorship.

“It’s a rewarding job and important work,” she says. “We help students achieve their academic and professional goals, while helping to diversify the professoriate.”

Aside from her work for the graduate school, Mitchell also is involved in the worship arts.

“People really need to understand how to worship God through the arts,” she says, “and that comes from a personal relationship with God.”

Mitchell founded All Things Artistic Ministries Inc. (ATAMI) in 2009 as a way of promoting this vision. ATAMI provides arts education and spiritual formation activities, and organizes performances and distribution of artists’ products.

“We seek to inspire artists of all ages and artistic genres. For instance, if people have a book inside of them, we help them write it,” she says. The ministry offers classes in various art forms, seminars, group meetings and spiritual retreats.

Poetry still is a passion for Mitchell, who published her second book of poems with a companion CD in 1999. She also is an accomplished student. After graduating from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree, she earned her first master’s degree from U-M in social work. Her second master’s degree is in theology, which she earned at Ashland Theological Seminary in Ohio; she also received a doctorate in spiritual formation at Ashland.

Born and raised in Ann Arbor, Mitchell recalls acting in a play on U-M’s campus as a teenager, and meeting the Rev. Jesse Jackson while working on his presidential campaign.

She praises the university for the support it offers students and staff. This year, her supervisors showed support by nominating her for the Center for Education of Women’s 2011 Advanced Leadership Program and the Fall 2011 Research Administrator’s Information Network. She was accepted into both.

Mitchell lives in Ypsilanti where she raises her great-niece.

The weekly Spotlight features faculty and staff members at the university. To nominate a candidate, please contact the Record staff at



The Rev. Dr. Debby Mitchell, student affairs program manager, Rackham Graduate School, on her work with Rackham: “My great joy is interacting with the many students we help achieve their academic and professional goals."


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