Oregon could not have looked more different than Guyana. In 1973, Ivy A. Mitchell stepped off a plane in Eugene, Ore., ready for college life in America, a reality that so few of her countrymen had experienced.
Charged by a passion for education, she went on to receive her bachelor’s degree from Oregon University and her masters and doctorate degrees from Florida State University. Now, after 20 years of teaching at Florida A&M University, Mitchell is preparing to retire.
“I have come a long way,” Mitchell said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d be a professor at a major university.”
In more than two decades of services to FAMU, Mitchell focused her academic energy towards teaching Spanish and directing the University Honors Program.
By combining her love for language and foreign culture, Mitchell has been able to give her students a global perspective.
As a strong advocate for study abroad programs, the seasoned educator has traveled to 36 countries herself, including Russia, China and Nigeria. She said that she has always hoped to use the Honors Program as a way to give some of FAMU’s top students the advanced training needed to excel.
“The Honors Program attracts outstanding students and the program helps to adequately prepare them for the challenges of graduate school,” Mitchell said.
Her enthusiasm for teaching is a trait that many of her colleagues recognize and readily brag about.
“Dr. Mitchell is always thinking about her students,” said Johanna Ramos, who also teaches in the foreign language department.
Students and faculty, who frequent the Honors House, are never surprised to hear Mitchell’s staple laugh through the hallway.
“She’s a hoot,” said Frances McMillon, program assistant to the Honors Program. McMillon has worked with Mitchell for more than seven years and she said that her colleague’s dedication to students is clear.
“She loves the students,” McMillon said. “She has a global mind when it comes to what students should be focused on.”
Over the years, the FAMU community has become a fixture for Mitchell and her family. Two of her daughters, Karen and Carlotta, also work at the University with the International Program and Title III Programs.
With Mitchell’s tenure coming to an end, she has begun to consider her next steps. She has worked with several civic organizations throughout the community over the years, and plans to do even more after retirement.
Mitchell said she hopes to travel back to Guyana to help improve the educational system there.
“I have been given a wonderful life and to whom much is given, much is required,” Mitchell said.