Kerry Mitchell

Each week, Daniels is featuring a researcher who conducts meaningful research that impacts their field and the wider community. Learn more about their work in Q&As with the Daniels Research team and email them to nominate yourself or a colleague for a future Q&A. 

Kerry Mitchell is an assistant teaching professor in the Department of Management. She teaches Strategic Business Communication, a core business class, and Human Resources for undergraduates. She also teaches Organizational Behavior and capstone courses in the Part-time Professional MBA program. Outside of Daniels, Kerry partners with nonprofits, government and Fortune 500 organizations to make engaging workplaces. She is active in the Denver human resource community and is a keynote speaker and consultant. She has been a speaker at several leadership academies. Kerry is the co-author of several journal articles and presents at industry and academic conferences. She has served as a reviewer for journals, conferences and books for Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. As a scholar-practitioner, she researches employee empowerment, generational differences and women’s leadership. She is SHRM certified and has graduate degrees, including a doctorate, in communication and organizational behavior.

How do you integrate research into your primary role as a teaching professor?

My PhD is in organizational behavior, so I teach that and human resources, as well as a core class on business communication. As a teaching professor, research isn’t a requirement, so all of the research that I do is self-driven. I was a corporate trainer before I came into academics and worked in male-dominated fields. I noticed a lot of things happening to keep women out of leadership—not just to me, but to many women. Women’s leadership became a core focus on my research and consulting practice and it led me to questions about how these more homogenous work places impact people of color and other groups, and how an organization can actually make a transition to greater diversity. For me it’s really about getting along, creating good ideas and learning how to collaborate. You can’t be inclusive if you’re not equitable, and you can’t be equitable if you don’t have thoughtful processes that start with hiring diverse individuals. What I see in organizations helps me influence current students to make these changes as they become leaders.  

What has some of your past research looked like?

My interests stem from what I experienced in organizations and my desire to improve workplaces. My dissertation focused on employee engagement across generations, and that was pre-pandemic, so it’s something that I’m still really interested in in terms of: How do people feel empowered and engaged now that so many people are working remotely and not going back to the office? Engagement is linked to a sense of belonging and feeling included, which led to working on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). I’ve published on what women expect from women leaders. In a different aspect of research, I like to understand what makes learning stick. We do a lot of public speaking and presentations in my business communications class, so I’ve done studies on how using improv techniques in class improves psychological safety, and trying to assess the impact of using AI and virtual reality to build confidence in public speaking.

What are you working on now?

Melissa Akaka introduced me to the work of the Colorado Inclusive Economy (CIE) group, and it really fits right in with my interests in human resources and organizational behavior, and my passion for equity and inclusion. We’re a part of their most recent Learning Journey cohort, where we meet eight times over the course of a year. So we’re drawing from this experience to design a study around research questions like: What is equitable leadership? How is it enacted across different organizations? What are the elements of equitable workforce development, and how can we design those pathways? We’re participating in the cohorts but also setting up interviews with key CIE leaders and members, and we’ll eventually flesh out case studies for publishing and submit a report to CIE.

How would you like to see your work change the world?

Workplaces are adapting to changing demographics, but many companies still don’t understand the value of diversity, equity and inclusion. Employees have power today with their employers to make sure diversity, equity and inclusion are part of the organizational culture and lead to engagement. Getting to this point means finding common ground and learning to appreciate everyone so we can collaborate and innovate. How do we learn to get along?