In this episode, Betsy Mitchell talks about her approach to leadership, which began as a student-athlete, and her mentors that helped shape her approach to athletics leadership. She also discusses building a competitive athletics program at one of the world’s top engineering colleges and her approach to selling that vision.


Mitchell is the director of athletics, physical education and recreation at Caltech. The Olympic gold medalist and former world record holder is the department’s first full-time female director.

Prior to this appointment, Mitchell served as the director of athletics and recreation at Allegheny College in Pennsylvania from 2006 through March 2011. Mitchell has also worked as the swimming and diving head coach at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, instructor in the sports management program at Notre Dame College of Ohio, and director of athletics at Laurel School for Girls in Shaker Heights, Ohio as well as director of athletics at Thomas Worthington High School in Columbus, Ohio.

Mitchell was a competitive swimmer for over 10 years, earning an Olympic silver medal as a high school athlete by placing second in the 100-meter backstroke, and also winning a gold medal as a member of the 400-meter medley relay in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. She earned another Olympic medal after helping the 400-meter medley relay team to a silver medal at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. In between Olympic berths, she set the world record in the 200-meter backstroke at the 1986 World Championships. That record stood for five years.

Mitchell helped the University of Texas to three consecutive Division I Championships in 1986, 1987, and 1988. She was a seven-time individual NCAA Champion in the 100- and 200-yard backstrokes and the 200-yard individual medley, holding the American record for both backstroke events for many years and the world record in the 100-yard event. Named All-American and Academic All-American many times, she also earned the NCAA Most Valuable Swimmer Award, the NCAA Top Six Award, and the Hondo Broderick Award for Swimming.

After completing her swimming career she represented the United States in the World Sculling Championships in 1994. Three years later she successfully summited Mount Kilimanjaro.

Mitchell earned her BS in education from the University of Texas in 1988. She completed her masters of education degree in sports administration in 1991 and went on to earn a certificate of advanced study in education administration, planning, and social policy from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education in 1997.

[Courtesy: Cal Tech Athletics website]


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