S. David Mitchell

S. David Mitchell


Mitchell is known throughout the MU School of Law for his passion, thoughtfulness and teaching philosophy that exemplifies putting students first. It’s a sentiment often echoed by his students.

“Dr. Mitchell is a patient and positive instructor who is accessible to students when we need him,” said Dee Arrington, a second-year law student. “He is passionate about teaching and engages our minds by connecting the cases to everyday life in ways that illuminate the law. He is an excellent listener and demonstrates compassion and empathy even while delivering a message a student might not want to hear.”

Early in his career at MU, Mitchell received the Gold Chalk Award, which recognizes faculty members who have made significant contributions to advancing the education and training of graduate and professional students — an award that is both student-nominated and selected. Mitchell is not only a gifted teacher, but also inspires his students to challenge themselves outside the classroom.

Mitchell taught high school history before leaving the profession in 1997 to pursue a law degree and a doctorate in sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. After spending two years as a resident scholar at the University of Colorado, he joined the faculty here at MU in 2006. His teaching spans a range of subject areas, including but not limited to Torts, Law & Society and a breadth of classes on criminal law.

Students describe Mitchell as a professor who is intentional, present and committed to being in class as he expects his students to be. In a student evaluation from a Law & Society class Mitchell taught recently, Kate Frerking wrote: “Not only does Professor Mitchell demonstrate outstanding teaching ability, he also demonstrates the passion, ingenuity and dedication to his role as a teacher that every law student should desire.”

Going above and beyond for his students isn’t new for Mitchell. In fact, he’s celebrated in the legal community for coming to class with a passion for the subject and for doing what’s necessary to educate the next generation of students.

“Professor Mitchell’s passion for and thoughtfulness about teaching are exceptional,” said Interim Dean Paul Litton. “Students recognize his excellence immediately.”

Mastering the law is a task in and of itself, which is why Mitchell holds his students to high standards both intellectually and ethically. He expects that students will challenge themselves to understand the material while also learning to apply it efficiently outside the classroom.

“Dr. Mitchell inspires [students] to be better lawyers by challenging us to be better people. He models the behaviors he expects from us and holds us accountable to the ethics of our chosen profession,” Arrington said. “He creates a fun and effective learning environment while holding us accountable to lofty standards.”

For years, Mitchell served as the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, where he was revered among students and peers alike for his mentorship and commitment to making students’ experience at the law school as fulfilling and educational as possible.

“Prof. Mitchell is a great man and an amazing professor,” said recent law school graduate Charles Lemon. “His frankness and fairness are invaluable qualities in a mentor, professor, and a friend – which is what he was to me during my time at Mizzou Law.”

He now serves as the Co-Director of the Michael A. Middleton Center for Race, Citizenship and Justice.

Mitchell takes this mentorship to another level though his teaching at Douglass High School, a public high school in Columbia, where he taught a class titled “Street Law” with a curriculum that focuses on legal issues relevant to these highschoolers’ experiences. As an ambassador for MU and the values espoused by the university, Mitchell uses his faculty position for good in ways that support and challenge the folks with whom he crosses paths, spurring reflection and modeling civil discourse whenever possible.

“When I think of a recipient of this award, I think of someone whose influence extends beyond the classroom,” said recent law school graduate Brionna Pratt. “I think of someone who has a desire to create change for their students, mentees, community, institution and profession. I think of someone who is not afraid to use their platform or voice to create the change they wish to see. I think of someone who inspires others to be the best version of themselves, and who invests time and effort in helping others. I think of Professor Mitchell, who embodies all these things.”