The Mitchell Institute
The Mitchell Institute’s guiding tenet—that no Maine student with the qualifications and ambition to pursue a college education should be denied that opportunity due to limited financial resources—is as important today as it was when Senator Mitchell established the Institute. From its inception, the Mitchell Institute has made financial investments in deserving students from every community in Maine.
Through both experience and evidence-based research, we have learned that college student success depends on more than hard work and financial aid. Additional support and guidance—both during and after college—increase Scholars’ chances of attaining a degree and finding meaningful employment in Maine. The Mitchell Institute offers Mitchell Scholars a suite of programs and resources that encourage a partnership with each Scholar, every step of the way, allowing us to meet and help Scholars where they are. Today, Scholars and Alumni alike say that the combination of financial and personal support makes a world of difference for them and their families, and our data show that the more we engage with a given Scholar, the more likely they are to graduate on time in their post-secondary education.
The Mitchell Institute’s approach works: 88% of Mitchell Scholars complete college and achieve a degree, compared with 58% of students nationally. 89% of Mitchell Scholar Alumni are working in career-related jobs—nearly two-thirds of them in Maine—and 40% have completed or are pursuing graduate degrees.
Senator George J. Mitchell
“No one should be guaranteed success… but everyone should have a fair chance to succeed.”
Senator George J. Mitchell was born and raised in Waterville, Maine. He is a graduate of Waterville High School, Bowdoin College, and Georgetown University Law Center. Senator Mitchell served as United States Attorney and U.S. District Court Judge for Maine. In 1980, he was appointed to the United States Senate from Maine to complete the term of Senator Edmund S. Muskie, who resigned to become Secretary of State. He was elected to a full term in the Senate in 1982, and reelected in 1988. He left the Senate in 1995 as the Senate Majority Leader, a position he had held since January 1989.
Senator Mitchell served as chairman of the Peace Negotiations in Northern Ireland. Under his leadership, the governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom and the political parties of Northern Ireland agreed to the historic Good Friday peace accord. At the request of President Bill Clinton, Senator Mitchell served as chairman of an International Fact Finding Committee on violence in the Middle East. The committee’s recommendation, widely known as The Mitchell Report, was endorsed by the Bush administration, the European Union, and by many other governments. In 2009, President Obama appointed Senator Mitchell as Special Envoy for the Middle East.
Senator Mitchell is the son of immigrants who, though they did not receive formal education, deeply understood the power that education would provide for their children. Although his family was poor, they embraced the American dream. With the support of scholarships and financial aid, Senator Mitchell and his siblings were all able to go on to college.
While he served in the U.S. Senate, Mitchell spoke at a graduation at every Maine high school at least once. When later asked about his experience with students, he had this to say:
“…I met and talked with thousands of students. I learned a lot from that experience, much of it valuable, some of it humorous…Over and over again I saw in the students’ eyes and heard in their words mirror images of myself at that age. Enough intelligence to show promise, but often obscured by anxiety and insecurity; and a lot of feigned indifference. At first, I thought, ‘I can help these kids.’ Gradually, that changed to ‘I have to help these kids.’ I came to believe that I, who had received so many helping hands, had a duty to use whatever ability I possess to see that no child in Maine who wants to go to college is without a helping hand. It is, of course, a huge aspiration, perhaps unattainable in a precise, mathematical sense. But, I thought, just trying to meet that aspiration can do so much good for so many of our young citizens.”
With a personal knowledge of the importance of higher education, Senator Mitchell established the Mitchell Scholarship Program in 1995 with a goal of increasing educational opportunity for Maine students. A foundation grant in 1999 enabled him to establish the Mitchell Institute, adding career and personal support programs for Mitchell Scholars, as well as a research component. Since it’s founding, the Mitchell Institute has awarded more than $23 million in Scholarship funds, representing an enormous investment in Maine communities.
More than 25 years since the Institute started awarding Scholarships, our mission—and Senator Mitchell’s vision—are more important to Maine’s vitality than ever.