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Meek School Magazine Highlights Charlie Mitchell

This story was republished with permission by The Meek School Magazine.

The humble product of a red brick house on a big yard in Vicksburg, Mississippi, Charlie Mitchell stood out early in life.

“My father, my grandfather, my great-grandfather, a brother-in-law, a stepbrother, two uncles, and probably a bunch of others are all medical doctors,” Mitchell said. “And I’m a lawyer.”
Although he said he was not always the most popular person at Thanksgiving dinner, Mitchell’s family never pressured him or his siblings to follow in any footsteps.
“Our parents never wanted anything for us but happiness,” he said.
For Mitchell, the search for happiness led him to a bachelor’s degree in communication from Mississippi State University in 1975.
Similarly, Mitchell cares about the happiness of his children.
“My wife and daughters have supported me in everything I’ve wanted to do, and I’ve tried to support them in everything they’ve wanted to do,” he said. “You get great satisfaction at my age from seeing that your children are happy in their lives. That’s the greatest happiness you can have as a parent, to have happy children.”
He finds comparable happiness in watching his students at the University of Mississippi.
“I like the students,” he said. “I like being around people who are energized about life.”
This feeling is amplified on graduation day.
“I love graduation day more than anything. You get to see people who are very pleased with themselves and see some manifestation of the work they’ve put in over the last four years or so.”
Some people argue that graduation day is just about receiving a piece of paper. Mitchell sees it as so much more.
“People who want to diminish its importance would say that it’s just a piece of paper. But it is really a culmination and the beginning of the next really important part of students’ lives.”
Leading students to that point is something Mitchell got a taste for many years ago.
After working as a reporter and photographer for the Vicksburg Post from 1975 to 1983, he enrolled in law school at the University of Mississippi, where he was given an opportunity to teach.
“I had a dose of teaching early on,” Mitchell says. “I taught here as an instructor for a couple of years before I went back into the industry. I liked it and I always felt that eventually I would come back.”
In 1986, Mitchell earned his juris doctor degree. He returned to the Vicksburg Post for several years, working as managing editor and as executive editor.
In August 2010, he transitioned back into the University of Mississippi faculty as assistant dean of the Meek School of Journalism and New Media.
Layne Bruce, executive director of the Mississippi Press Association, said that seeing Mitchell leave the Vicksburg Postwas bittersweet. However, Bruce was encouraged by the fact that Mitchell was moving on to a position at the university.
“I was very happy that when he left Vicksburg, it was to join the new Meek School,” Bruce said. “I knew print journalism would have a strong advocate there in Charlie.”
Mitchell was promoted to associate dean in July 2016. Will Norton, Jr., dean of the Meek School, has been with the university during Mitchell’s multiple roles.
“I completely trust Associate Dean Mitchell, no matter how big the project or how minute the detail,” Norton said.
In addition to serving as associate dean, Mitchell teaches classes and writes an award-winning newspaper column.
“Conversation,” featured in newspapers around the state, discusses issues of public policy ranging from education to Medicare reform.
While writing this column, Mitchell has learned lessons about being aware of priorities.
“We may live in the moment, but while we are living in the moment, we are creating ripples that will last,” he said. “I think that is especially true as a columnist, as a media practitioner, as a news reporter.”
According to Mitchell, it is important to know what effect you may have on others, or to at least know that you will have some effect, even if the specifics are a mystery at the time.
“I have no idea once I put it out there what effect it’s going have or when it’s going to have it,” he said. “But every once in a while, I’ll hear from somebody who says, ‘I read what you wrote about such-and-so and it caused me to think about this.’ That’s what you want to have in life — a conversation. An ongoing conversation where people are thinking about the challenges they face, where people are thinking about the public issues. As that happens, you hope society improves.”
In all of Mitchell’s endeavors — as an associate dean, a professor, a parent, a writer and more — it is clear that he cares about his work and those it touches. Although his success can be attributed to that trait, he is much more humble about his accomplishments.
“Not to overuse the word, but I think that I’ve been blessed in so many ways that I’ll never be able to think about even starting to count,” Mitchell said. “I’ve had good colleagues everywhere I’ve been and good bosses everywhere I’ve been. I’ve had good friends everywhere I’ve been. I’ve always had work that I’ve enjoyed.”
He turned and looked out his office window, down Sorority Row.
“Nobody can say that there aren’t mornings when you wake up and say ‘I just don’t want to do it today,’” he said wistfully, “but overall I can’t imagine a different path that would have been more fun, more fulfilling, or more challenging.”

By Elizabeth Blackstock, a sophomore, integrated marketing communications major from Marietta, Georgia. Photo by Alex Edwards.

The Meek School Magazine is a collaborative effort of journalism and Integrated Marketing Communications students with the faculty of Meek School of Journalism and New Media. Every week, for the next few weeks, HottyToddy.com will feature an article from Meek Magazine, Issue 4 (2016-2017).

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