Dr. Thomas Mitzel began his appointment as the 12th president of Dickinson state University Dec. 21, 2015. Mitzel and his wife Rhonda relocated from Hartford, Connecticut where he served as the vice president for academic affairs (VPAA) at Trinity College (July 2013 – December 2015).
Mitzel began at Trinity College in 1996 as a faculty member in the department of Chemistry where he achieved rank of full professor. In 2008, he accepted the position of associate academic dean and continued to teach chemistry until he left Trinity in 2011. Before his return to Trinity College in 2013, Mitzel served as dean of the School of Natural Sciences (July 2011 – July 2013) and interim director of the Wild Basin Creative Research Center at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas (May 2012 – 2013).
Growing up in Aberdeen, South Dakota, Mitzel attended Northern State University where he participated on the track and field team and received a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry. He then earned his Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, and was a postdoctoral fellow at The Ohio State University.
Dr. Mitzel arrived in Dickinson with his wife, Rhonda, on December 7, 2015. It was easy for Dr. Mitzel to adjust to the small town. “One of the things that drew me back [to the Midwest] was my own education in Aberdeen [SD] at Northern State, and I love that interplay between the small city and the university.” He felt right at home, especially because the people were so welcoming. “We had not had a bad interaction with anybody in the community, and that streak continues,” he said. “Everybody’s been wonderful. One of the things I noticed, especially the first time I was here, was the level of enthusiasm, not just on campus, but off campus as well.”
Dr. Mitzel is most excited about the unique opportunities DSU presents its students. “We have a 10:1 student-faculty ratio right now on the DSU campus, which means that you’re going to know your professor. When you knock on a door, somebody’s going to be there. [That] also means if you miss class, I can call your dorm room and find you,” he said, with a laugh. “That level of interaction, you aren’t just sitting in a classroom taking notes, you’re getting outside-of-the-classroom information, you’re able to work on a faculty member’s scholarship with the enthusiasm that got them to go after their advanced degree—you see the light in their eyes, and it picks up.” Dr. Mitzel is confident DSU prepares its students for life after college and continual educational development. “Our goal for our students has to be not only to teach them what we need to within their majors and their areas of study, but to teach them that learning really is a lifelong goal. Once they leave Dickinson State University, they are going to continue to have that learning process.”