Mike Bishop is director of student leadership, focusing on supporting students on their engaged leadership journeys mainly by supporting the vibrant network of leadership educators at Cornell and beyond. For the past twenty years Mike has helped young leaders connect their community engagement to academic scholarship, career exploration, and personal development. Passionate about experiential education, Mike has created leadership programming in varied settings that emphasizes service to the public good, democratic teaching, reflective dialogue, and peer mentoring. He views his work as strengthening democracy by providing emerging leaders with the tools to build healthy communities.
During his fourteen years in higher education, Mike has honed his practice of developing transformational programming, coaching professional staff in a “students as colleagues” approach, and collaborating with faculty to advance engaged scholarship.
Before completing a career-transition MEd in 2003 with a focus in administration, planning, and social policy at Harvard Graduate School of Education, Mike worked for five years with the Missouri Division of Youth Services as a youth counselor, youth group leader, and trainer. While living in Springfield, Mike also worked part time with The Kitchen, Inc., as a homeless shelter youth activities coordinator and with Leadership Ranch as a challenge course facilitator. His other full-time professional experience includes serving as chief instructor with Homeward Bound with the Massachusetts Division of Youth Services and as a teacher with Head Start.
For ten years with University of California Berkeley’s Public Service Center, he oversaw all co-curricular student leadership and service programs, the Center’s local poverty initiative, new alumni development, and student learning assessment. He developed and spearheaded Magnolia Project, the Center’s ten-year commitment to post-Katrina New Orleans, in the process deepening his understanding of race and class privilege.
Prior to his work at Berkeley, Mike served as the assistant director for the Harvard Public Service Network and Center for Public Interest Careers. While there, he partnered with Harvard College alumni to offer summer and post-graduate internships mentoring opportunities to students. Mike has cultivated these and other cross-generational learning spaces as a way for each cohort of leaders to serve those coming after.
Mike is a native of Mt. Morris, New York, where his Italian-American family has lived for many generations. His high school years at McQuaid Jesuit High School in nearby Rochester exposed him to top-tier teachers who challenged his sense of personal commitment to the public good, as well as his sense of community formed from his small-town upbringing. After receiving his BA in Sociology from Georgetown University, Mike volunteered in Nicaragua, where he grappled with what it meant to be useful to community-driven development.
His leadership journey has led him to a collaborative approach, cultivating strong relationships across differences and vigorously pursuing a collective vision through a democratic management style. As a result of dedicating his professional energies to the public interest sector, Mike has developed creative approaches, drawing inspiration from the fields of student leadership, civic engagement, student affairs, community development, and experiential learning. As an educator and manager — grounded in student agency and community wisdom — he strives to bridge the curricular and co-curricular in order to integrate academic, personal, and career threads along varied pathways to leadership.
Perhaps owing to the deep respect Mike has for his grandparents, who made their living farming and independently selling their harvest at the end of their driveway, he has the same respect for historical leadership of any community. In his own community practice, Mike volunteers with the board of the Multicultural Resource Center. He has been actively involved in challenging the system of mass incarceration, particularly long-term solitary confinement. He has also volunteered with Catalyst Project, which organizes, trains, and mentors white people to take collective action to end racism, and Bay Area Katrina Solidarity Network. Mike is an avid hiker and reader, and he is excited about returning to the East Coast and helping to prepare Cornell students to become citizens who will enrich their communities, while promoting the university’s national standing in the areas of service and engaged learning.