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Brian Mitchell & Associates helps educational institutions and other nonprofit organizations identify and break down barriers to progress and growth. We take a holistic approach to problem solving, assembling a unique team of experts for each project based on our client’s specific goals and developing solutions that drive and support real system change. Key to our success is our commitment to best practices that not only advance institutions individually but also create opportunity for mutually beneficial collaboration among nonprofits, businesses, and government.


Becoming Intentional About College Retention

Originally Posted on Huffington Post

One of the biggest concerns at colleges and universities is how best to improve retention. Retention means something quite different depending upon the institution. At … Read More

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Brian C. Mitchell Summary of Activities

On January 5, 2014, Dr. Mitchell participated at the CIC President’s Institute on a panel about college access on Marco Island, Florida. On February 6, … Read More

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Mitchell delivers concluding remarks at the Washington Media Scholars Program

Brian Mitchell delivered concluding remarks to more than 400 students, panelists, and guests at Media Scholars Week at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. He spoke … Read More

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  • Who We Are

    Brian Mitchell & Associates, LLC is a professional services firm dedicated to delivering innovative, sustainable, and strategic solutions to the complex challenges facing educational institutions and other nonprofit organizations. The firm works closely with college and university leaders as well as directors of associations, government agencies, and nonprofits focused on the education and cultural sectors.

    We are unique because of the methodologies we employ. We think about nonprofits differently, developing holistic solutions that put the pieces together in new and entrepreneurial ways. We focus on the intersection between areas of traditional nonprofit focus and link them directly to institutional strategy. We uncover opportunity at the margins, where nonprofits seldom innovate. We embrace a transdisciplinary approach to create real system change for our clients – breathing life, purpose, and discipline into their strategic plans and moving their agendas forward. Institutions and organizations with whom we work emerge from the process thinking differently about themselves. They are more confident, robust, and viable; better able to imagine the possible; and strategically positioned for the future.

    Led by Brian Mitchell, a respected thought leader with decades of executive experience in higher education, Brian Mitchell & Associates provides expertise and guidance in seven key areas: strategic planning, master planning, governance, fiscal management, human resource development, enrollment, and community development.

  • Our Vision

    Brian Mitchell & Associates is passionately committed to promoting excellence and innovation in educational institutions and other nonprofit organizations. The firm forges strong client relationships with institutions and organizations that are seeking to effect positive change. Working closely with a network of institutional leaders, senior administrators, and best-in-practice institutional affiliates, we take a holistic view of the factors that contribute to excellence and bring creativity, understanding, and passion to every professional engagement. Our vision is shaped by the following characteristics:

    • Uniquely experienced – Our many years as university executives enable us to identify and overcome impediments to performance and innovation.
    • Tenacious problem solvers – We focus on linking strategic client goals with underlying tactical considerations. We work with leaders to rethink and refine their programs, tools, and approaches in ways that are viable, transformative, and sustainable.
    • Undaunted by complexity – We relish the opportunity to tackle complex, mission-critical initiatives and help guide nonprofits through internal system change while addressing external opportunities and challenges.
    • Nimble and versatile – Our ingenuity and experience position us to address a breadth of strategic initiatives that range from improving governance to shaping strategic plans.
    • Connected and collaborative – We partner with a wide network of senior and professional associates and institutional affiliates to create the ideal mix of skills and expertise for each engagement.
  • Our Approach

    Brian Mitchell & Associates understands that every issue requires a unique solution, and our job is to engage in thoughtful planning, thorough analysis, timely execution, and ongoing assessment in order to achieve positive outcomes for our clients. Our client relationships are characterized by our:

    • Willingness to listen carefully and pose thoughtful questions
    • Ability to understand and appreciate an institution’s history and culture
    • Capacity to be nimble, resourceful, and creative in proposing solutions
    • Desire to link solutions with an institution’s strategic plan
    • Understanding of an institution’s place both within the surrounding community and its competitive environment
    • Commitment to linking identifiable, objective metrics with the planning process in order to gauge progress

    Our success stems from not only in-house expertise but also the experienced and distinguished group of senior and professional associates and institutional affiliates with whom we partner. Our network comprises the individuals, resources, depth of knowledge, and entrepreneurial thinking necessary to create solutions that reflect best practices in nonprofit management.

  • Leadership

    Brian C. Mitchell, Principal

    Experience at a glance:

    • Chair, Board of Trustees, Merrimack College
    • President, Bucknell University
    • President, Washington & Jefferson College
    • President, Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania

    Brian C. Mitchell, Ph.D., served as president of Bucknell University from 2004 to 2010. At Bucknell, Brian developed the University’s first comprehensive strategic plan and modern campus master plan and hired nearly 60 tenure-track professors in three years to reduce faculty teaching loads. He launched the current $500 million capital campaign, raising $170 million from all sources in less than three years, and developed an ambitious core community initiative that brought over $25 million to date to the University and its region to improve the local and regional economies. He previously served as president of Washington & Jefferson College (1998-2004) and the Association for Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania (1991-1998).

    Brian is past chair of the Pennsylvania Selection Committee for the Rhodes Scholarships, the National Association of Independent College and University State Executives, and the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania. He also has served on the boards of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, the Pennsylvania Humanities Council, the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Geisinger Health System, and National History Day. He received the POSSE Award for Outstanding Achievement in Education Through Leadership from the POSSE Foundation in 2010 and the Charles W.L. Foreman Award for Innovation in Private Higher Education from the Council of Independent Colleges and the Foundation for Independent Higher Education in 2011.

    Brian serves as a director of the National Merit Scholarship Corporation and as immediate past chair of the Board of Trustees of Merrimack College. A widely published labor historian, he received his bachelor’s degree from Merrimack College and his doctorate from the University of Rochester.

    Click to download Brian Mitchell CV

A Breadth of Expertise

  • Brian Mitchell & Associates takes a holistic view of the people, programs, and facilities that combine to create dynamic, vibrant, and sustainable nonprofit institutions and organizations.

    We understand the interplay among the core components of that dynamic environment and how each must link to an institution’s strategic plan if it is to remain healthy and relevant. Drawing from the resources of our nationally respected affiliate network, we work collaboratively with educational institutions, nonprofits, and consortia toward creating an integrated vision for the future.

  • Strategic Planning

    Is the institution’s ethos reflected in its strategic plan?

    Does the strategic plan provide an actionable framework that links institutional resources with people, programs, and facilities?

    Strategic Planning

    The best strategic plans create a living dynamic, establish shared aspirations, and build excitement and momentum throughout the institutional community. They also enable institutional leaders to successfully drive and manage change in areas ranging from facilities enhancements and community outreach to development.

    Brian Mitchell & Associates offers a proven ability to help institutions not just think boldly but also move decisively. We can support an institutional leader’s vision by setting attainable goals, clear benchmarks, and robust, well-timed internal assessments, all of which help to earn the endorsement of senior-level administrators and establish a visible way forward for the entire community. Embraced by a wide range of constituents, a good strategic plan takes on a life of its own, with goals continuously driven forward from all corners of the institution.

  • Master Planning

    Does the master plan emerge seamlessly from the strategic plan?

    Is it sufficiently comprehensive to transform the institution into a dynamic regional and national economic driver?

    Master Planning

    The best master plans take a holistic view of the institution, seeking change that not only strengthens an institution’s physical presence but also uplifts the entire community. They must also protect an institution’s historic claims to tax exemption, which are critical to its survival.

    Brian Mitchell & Associates works closely with institutional leaders, architects, project managers, facilities planners, and in-house facilities staff to structure a plan and process that enables clients to meet their strategic objectives. We lay out the framework that enables clients to stay on time and on budget, link the master plan to the strategic plan, and drive community connections and economic growth.

  • Governance

    Is shared governance respected and understood by the institution as a whole?

    Do key constituencies understand the duties, responsibilities, opportunities – and limitations – of their roles in the governance structure?


    In the corporate world, decisions tend to rest with the CEO, but nonprofit management is characterized by shared governance. As such, the perspectives of boards of trustees and other key constituencies factor significantly into every major decision.

    With decades of experience in higher education leadership, the firm and its network of distinguished managers and practitioners have a highly successful track record of working effectively with trustees and senior-level administrators. That experience, combined with the perspective gained from corporate work, provides the perfect vantage point for helping clients understand the challenges and opportunities of shared governance. As a result, we are able to deliver comprehensive, effective strategies that help our clients lead and manage complex institutions.

  • Human Resource Development

    How do you find senior managers who understand nonprofits but also possess the creativity and nimbleness to act as change agents?

    In an era that demands cost-effective and entrepreneurial solutions, how can nonprofit institutions develop and sustain a team that grows with and adapts to their own success in a rapidly changing environment?

    Human Resource Development

    Increasingly, nonprofit institutions are finding new opportunities to rethink how members of their senior management team relate to one another as well as the dynamic environment in which they operate. Many institutions are now hiring senior-level managers from a broader and deeper candidate pool that includes the private sector. Further, management best practices dictate that key staff members organize in different ways to meet challenges and opportunities and respond to the needs of their constituencies.

    To address the changing face of nonprofit leadership, Brian Mitchell & Associates works closely with institutions to understand their unique environments, match the right players to the right settings, and help implement management and organizational strategies that have identifiable metrics by which to measure leadership success.

  • Fiscal Management

    In an era of declining resources, how much flexibility exists to meet changing conditions and new opportunities?

    How do nonprofit institutions understand and maximize their revenue streams to meet key objectives linked to their strategic plan?

    Fiscal Management

    Most nonprofit institutions are heavily dependent on some combination of user fees, such as college tuition, and auxiliary revenue streams. A few have sizeable endowments, but even these institutions have been impacted by the deep recession and draw-down policies. In addition, nonprofits face reductions in state and federal support and shifting priorities among corporate and foundation donors.

    At Brian Mitchell & Associates, we work with institutions to conduct an in-depth assessment of their financial health, potential revenue sources, and how their revenue, debt, tax policy, and (where appropriate) new revenue and third-party sources can be used to achieve strategic initiatives. Our job is to reassemble the financial pieces to create a viable, balanced, and conservative pathway to support growth while strengthening the understanding and use of current and prospective financial resources.

  • Enrollment

    Has the institution linked its admissions and financial aid programs to shape a student body that reflects the aspirations of its strategic plan?

    Is the institution’s enrollment model relational or transactional in nature?


    Enrollment drives educational institutions’ financial, cultural, and academic agendas. Yet in a world where the need for a college-educated workforce is greater than ever, colleges and universities face daunting challenges associated with changing student demographics, an increasingly competitive admissions environment, and uncertain economic conditions. We strongly believe the time has come to move from a transactional to a relational model of student recruitment. Having created and implemented successful and sustainable admissions and enrollment programs, we are fully qualified to reorient and retool an institution so that enrollment staff can identify and recruit not just more applicants, but the right applicants – those most likely to enroll and thrive there. In doing so, we help build enrollment programs that foster lifelong relationships with students “from cradle through career.”

  • Core Community Development

    Does the strategic plan take into account its sense of place in the surrounding community?

    Has the institution devised strategies to protect its tax exemption while investing funds to foster community development?

    Core Community Development

    Too often, and many times unintentionally, nonprofit institutions isolate themselves from the towns and cities where they reside. Brian Mitchell & Associates helps institutions implement programs that are mutually beneficial to both the internal and external communities. We assess the assets most likely to build community engagement and spur development, while addressing the tax implications of community relations at the local and regional levels.

    By working with the firm, institutions can become better neighbors and drivers of economic activity in their regions and, in turn, help surrounding communities become more vibrant, welcoming, and attractive to potential applicants, faculty, and employees.

Making an Impact

Together with our affiliate network, Brian Mitchell & Associates includes some of the best and brightest thought leaders, opinion makers, and practitioners in American higher education and nonprofit management. We focus on game-changing ideas that deliver meaningful, sustainable progress to both individual institutions and the nonprofit sector as a whole.

Case Studies

The case studies below emerge from the seven core competencies in which the firm specializes. Each study is part of a larger puzzle meant to demonstrate the importance of developing a strategic vision for an organization.

Thought Leadership

  • July 19, 2012

    The Need to Lead

    Originally Posted on Huffington Post

    Continue Reading ▶
    July 31, 2012

    Colleges as Good Neighbors: Why Towns Matter

    Originally Posted on Huffington Post

    Continue Reading ▶
    August 03, 2012

    What Our Master Planning Says About Us

    Originally Posted on Huffington Post

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    August 08, 2012

    Intentional Enrollment

    Originally Posted on Huffington Post

    Continue Reading ▶
  • August 15, 2012

    Building a Senior Staff: The Burden of Support

    Originally Posted on Huffington Post As I prepared to take over my duties as president, I sought the advice of a distinguished senior colleague who had experience outside academia and who was used to managing staff as a successful sitting president. I inquired about how best to proceed as I prepared to assume the leadership Continue Reading ▶
    August 21, 2012

    Time to Step Back: The Future of Penn State

    Originally Posted on Huffington Post Much has been written lately about Penn State. The crimes committed are horrific and egregious, the administration was arrogant, insular and imperial, and some of the alumni are apologists. A beloved university that defines who they are and what they have become in life has humiliated others. There is no Continue Reading ▶
    August 28, 2012

    The Transfer Student: The New Hot Commodity

    Originally Posted on Huffington Post There is much to be said for the decentralized system of higher education in America. Unlike state-run systems outside the United States, decentralization supports choice and a range of options, including within public higher education. The historic and complex mix of two-year, four-year, public, private, non-profit, for profit, teaching and Continue Reading ▶
    September 05, 2012

    Choosing the Battleground for the Liberal Arts

    Originally Posted on Huffington Post Like most people trained my way, I believe passionately in the value of a liberal arts education. Given whatever talent exists within me, a liberal arts education focused my mind by encouraging me to reflect, synthesize, interpret and assess. I learned how to write, communicate, apply quantitative methods, and at Continue Reading ▶
  • September 11, 2012

    Finding (and Keeping) the Right College President

    Originally Posted on Huffington Post In a The Huffington Post blog in July, we looked at the reasons behind the need for college and university presidents to lead in higher … Continue Reading ▶
    September 17, 2012

    Growing a College: Why Parents Matter

    Originally Posted on Huffington Post In conversations with one another, college and university presidents often share “parent” stories. They are usually tales about the demands placed upon the institution by … Continue Reading ▶
    September 25, 2012

    The Other Side to Technology in Higher Education

    Originally Posted on Huffington Post There has been substantial discussion in the past few years about how technology is beginning to move beyond older concepts of distance learning and technology-assisted … Continue Reading ▶
    October 01, 2012

    The Political Case for Strong Career Centers

    Originally Posted on Huffington Post Colleges and universities have established career counseling centers to work with soon-to-be graduates as they prepare for their first post-graduate employment. Over the past decade, … Continue Reading ▶

In The News

  • News & Events

    • May 2014

      Brian C. Mitchell Summary of Activities

      On January 5, 2014, Dr. Mitchell participated at the CIC President’s Institute on a panel about college access on Marco Island, Florida.

      On February 6, 2014, Dr. Mitchell spoke to the senior staff of the Eat ‘n Park Hospitality Group in Pittsburgh on the key higher education indicators affecting the food service industry. On February 23, 2014, he addressed the annual national “Ten States” meeting hosted by the Pennsylvania Academy of Physicians on parallels between higher education and the health care industry at The Hershey Hotel in Hershey, PA.

      In addition, Dr. Mitchell participated in the opening panel of the Council of Independent College’s Community College Transfer Project Planning meeting on March 21-22, 2014 in Alexandria, Virginia.

      Joining him on the panel were: Barbara Hetrick (moderator), senior vice president, Council of Independent Colleges; Emily Froimson, vice president for programs, Jack Kent Cooke Foundation; Stan Jones, president, Complete College America; and Robert G. Templin, Jr., president, Northern Virginia Community College.  The Kresge Foundation provided support for the two-day meeting.

      For media commentary on the CIC planning session, please note:

    • June 2012

      Mitchell delivers concluding remarks at the Washington Media Scholars Program

      Brian Mitchell delivered concluding remarks to more than 400 students, panelists, and guests at Media Scholars Week at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. He spoke to the importance of providing scholarship support to students aspiring to jobs in the media and why the media and other major industry groups should see such support as an investment in their own future.

    • June 2012

      Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation 4th Annual Convener’s Conference

      In his capacity as CEO and director of the Edvance Foundation, Brian Mitchell attended the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s Postsecondary Success Grantee Forum, an annual gathering of postsecondary success program grant recipients. During the three-day conference, Mitchell met with senior Gates Foundation officials and prospective partners about their potential involvement with the Edvance Foundation’s Nexpectation Network, a program that facilitates and supports the enrollment of students from community colleges and other two-year institutions at private colleges and universities nationwide.

    • May 2012

      Mitchell to receive honorary doctorate from Merrimack College

      Merrimack College bestowed alumnus Brian Mitchell with an honorary doctorate of public service at the college’s 62nd commencement ceremony on May 20. During the ceremony, Merrimack President Christopher Hopey recognized Mitchell for his work in higher education at the institutional, regional, state, and federal levels; his ability to make clear and tough decisions that strengthened the institutions he represented; and his ongoing dedication to Merrimack. Mitchell is a member and the immediate past chair of Merrimack College’s board of trustees.