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Karina Mitchell '23 Reflects on Leadership, Military Service, and Tissue Engineering

Apr 03, 2023   |   Dartmouth Admissions

Karina Mitchell '23 (she/her/hers)

Hometown: Charlotte, NC

Major: Biomedical Engineering; Minors: Sociology & Psychology

In the basketball team's lounge at Berry Sports center. (Photo by Don Hamerman)

When asked about the roots of her military and academic pursuits, Karina Mitchell '23 immediately thinks of her father, a civil engineer currently serving in the US Army.

"I have a core memory of my Dad's deployment, taking him up to the airport and seeing him leave and then the joy of him coming home safe," she says. "I look up to people in my family who were in the military because they taught me the importance of being willing to serve outside yourself."

Now, Karina is following in the footsteps of her father and grandfather, a Navy veteran, as Company Commander of Dartmouth's Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC), a program that prepares college students to become officers in the US military. Karina undergoes intensive training and takes military science classes along with her Dartmouth classes. The leader of Dartmouth's 13 cadets, Karina is particularly inspiring to other women of color looking to join ROTC.

"The Army tries really hard to build an inclusive culture, and so does Dartmouth," Karina says. "You can tell people are making an effort to diversify this community. It's a challenge, but we can't be afraid to embrace that challenge."

Karina is also the co-captain of the women's varsity basketball team where she's focused on creating a community and a culture.

"That starts by helping people become accustomed to living a championship lifestyle," she says. "A pillar of my basketball career has been leaving this place better than I found it." Karina sees herself as a built-in mentor to her fellow teammates and cadets, adding: "Something that's vital to my style of leadership is leading by example. If I want you to bring effort, I should bring that myself in a way that's going to encourage you to follow me. That makes me a more effective leader."

When not on the court or in the classroom, Karina can be found in Assistant Professor of Engineering Katie Hixon's Tissue Engineering Lab. There, Karina studies wound care, "which is especially applicable to both the Army and athletics." she says.

"Using biomedical engineering, we can develop products that surgeons can use to heal soldiers and athletes." She plans to complete graduate work in biomedical engineering before pursuing a career as an orthopedic trauma surgeon in the military.

But before embarking on that career, Karina will experience another milestone: she will be commissioned into the Army just one day prior to her graduation from Dartmouth in June. "In my eyes, it's about taking advantage of every day that I'm given to do the things that I love to the best of my ability because I know that someone would love to be in my position."

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