Dr. Damara Hightower Mitchell Voorhees headshot

Provost and VP of Academic Affairs transitions to focus on leading the EPI Center at Voorhees University

Dr. Damara Hightower Mitchell will serve as the Chief Executive Officer of the Center of Excellence for Educator Preparation and Innovation at Voorhees University

BATESBURG-LEESVILLE, S.C. – Dr. Damara Hightower Mitchell publicly announced today that she is transitioning from Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Voorhees University to focus on her true passion, educator preparation. Dr. Hightower Mitchell founded the Center of Excellence for Educator Preparation and Innovation commissioned by President, Dr. Ronnie Hopkins, in 2020. She will now serve as its Chief Executive Officer. Her decision comes as this national 501(c)3 nonprofit, established to address teacher shortages and academic disparities in South Carolina and the nation, experiences tremendous growth. 

After more than 30 years in leadership roles in K-20, state government, and the nonprofit sectors, Dr. Hightower Mitchell expressed excitement about devoting herself as CEO of the EPI Center, fully engaging in this innovative and rewarding work. 

“For the past several years, I have essentially been trying to divide myself between the Division of Academic Affairs and the EPI Center. As the needs of the Center continue to expand, to be the most effective leader I can be, I realize that I need to give it the attention it deserves and requires,” said Dr. Hightower Mitchell. “The thriving outlook on the EPI Center’s future opportunities and the significant impact it can have on education requires this prioritization.” 

After beginning her tenure in 2020, Voorhees received approval to offer graduate degrees and the Master of Education degree in Teaching and Learning was launched in December 2021 as a part of one of the funded projects. Under her visionary and passionate leadership, the EPI Center has received numerous grants to advance its work including a grant totaling $18.9 million from the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) to prepare teachers to improve student learning outcomes under the Supporting Effective Educator Development program. In 2023, the USDE awarded the EPI Center a $26.7 Teacher and School Leader Incentive Program grant to elevate educator effectiveness and improve student achievement in Fairfield County School District and Georgetown County School District. The EPI Center is a growing business enterprise working closely with educators in more than 25 K-12 public school districts across South Carolina. 

As an educator and influencer, Dr. Hightower Mitchell has held many management, executive, and senior leadership positions at Richland School District One, Claflin University, the University of South Carolina-Columbia, and her undergraduate alma mater, Benedict College. She has also served as an education associate for educator preparation at the South Carolina Department of Education holding leadership roles in K-16, state government, and the nonprofit sector as a teacher, professor, administrator, and teacher educator. 

Dr. Hightower Mitchell’s work often garners national recognition. Last year, Dr. Hightower Mitchell was selected to participate in the Executive Leadership Academy, a yearlong program jointly sponsored by the Council of Independent Colleges, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and the American Academic Leadership Institute. She was one of only 36 chosen from a competitive pool of applicants. Earlier this year, she was selected as a 2024 Fellow of the HBCU Executive Leadership Institute housed at Clark Atlanta University, and the HBCU Campaign Fund recently recognized Dr. Hightower Mitchell as one of 25 women making a difference in the space of Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions. 

Dr. Hightower Mitchell holds a Doctor of Education degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of South Carolina, a Master of Education degree in educational leadership and supervision K-12 from the University of Southern Mississippi, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English education from Benedict College.

Renowned Chinese philosopher Confucius wrote, “Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” Dr. Hightower Mitchell knows that when you follow your heart, it leads you to your purpose. Following her heart, she can now give her undivided attention to the EPI Center’s mission of growing, diversifying, and supporting the educator workforce through strategic implementation of professional learning and preparation pathways by partnering with underserved and under-resourced educational entities,” edupreneurs,” Institutions of Higher Education, and communities committed to ending academic disparities. 

The Center of Excellence for Educator Preparation and Innovation at Voorhees University welcomes home, Dr. Damara Hightower Mitchell. 

The EPI Center is located at 423 College Street in Batesburg-Leesville, SC.

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