It worked in biomechanics class just like it worked on the basketball court.
If Shenandoah University taught Bryce Mitchell ’14, ’17 anything, it was to attack his musculoskeletal studies the same way that he attacked the rim as SU’s starting point guard.
“My professor Sally Hamilton – who is a lifelong friend now – she really helped get me through biomechanics,” Mitchell said. “I kept telling her, ‘I suck at math.’ She kept telling me, ‘No, you don’t. You have a math brain. And I’m going to show you why.’ I ended up getting a B in the class, and my confidence just went through the roof from there. I stopped doubting myself and started being a little more confident in my academics.”
Not only did that confidence help Mitchell complete his exercise science undergrad degree in 2014, it propelled him into completing his Shenandoah University master’s degree in education in 2017. And it’s allowing him a certification in education administration.
A husband, father, educator and basketball coach, Mitchell only wishes he could go back and give his younger self a pep talk to develop that confidence sooner.
“I wish I had someone like me speaking to me when I was at Shenandoah,” Mitchell said. “I look at myself now, and the confidence I have in myself now. I didn’t have this confidence, but I wish I did when I was in college. I wish I had someone like myself speaking to me when I was in college. I feel like my eyes would have been glued on that person.”
That’s what motivated Mitchell to join a group working to create the Shenandoah University Black Alumni Network.
“I thought that this was something I could look back on and be able to say, ‘I had a hand in that,’” Mitchell said. “I thought I’d be able to help make a difference.”
The Black Alumni Network
The Black Alumni Network is the brainchild of Rip Roberts ’08, ’09, a former Hornet football standout. Roberts contacted Shenandoah University Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Yolanda Barbier Gibson.
“She (Yolanda) reached out to me to let me know that Rip was interested in helping get a group like this off of the ground,” said Emily Burner ’16, Shenandoah University’s executive director of donor & alumni relations. “This is something that our office has been wanting to do for a while now. The conversation between Rip and Yolanda definitely brought it to the forefront, and gathered much momentum behind the move to create the group. I’m really excited for what is in store.”
The first interest meeting happened on a Zoom call on July 10, 2020. Virtual meetings have happened frequently since the initial summer meeting, drawing in alumni like Nicole Davis ’03, ’06, who also serves as a member of the university’s Alumni Association Board of Directors and chairs the group’s Nominating Committee.
“It’s time,” said Davis, who hopes the network will provide “collaboration, growth, empowerment, clarity, understanding and presence.”
A Timely Email
Burner’s emails over the summer coincided with the racial unrest nationally as American citizens processed news stories of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and a resurfaced story on Elijah McClain.
“The email came right in the middle of all of that,” said Mitchell, a triplet who attended Shenandoah with one of his brothers, Byron Mitchell ’14. “During that time, I was very vocal on social media trying to get people to understand what we as African-Americans feel about things. It came right at the perfect time.”
Paying it Forward
As a freshman in Racey Hall, Mitchell had the typical overemphasis on his social life. By the time he was a senior, however, he was impacting the community in Winchester and ready to make a difference in the world.
In between, there were plenty of great memories of hanging out at the courtyard at Edwards Residential Village and building lifelong relationships.
Mitchell is eager to give back to his alma mater.
And he loves that the forthcoming black alumni network will provide him that avenue.
“I do love Shenandoah,” Mitchell said. “It’s where my wife and I met. My brother and I became closer being at Shenandoah together. We were able to make a difference in the athletics department there. My brother still coaches football there. I’ll have two degrees and a certification from there. It’s a huge part of my life. And to be able to help make a difference there, that’s important to me.”
Written by Chris Lassiter ’98
Member, Shenandoah University Black Alumni Network