In his role as OEI’s director for student leadership, Mike Bishop supports staff, student leaders and alumni so they can facilitate community-engaged leadership experiences centered around service, mentorship, dialogue and student agency. He collaborates across the university to create pathways through curricular and co-curricular experiences, including the individual and group certificates in community-engaged leadership.
“CEL is important to me because it provides an opportunity to build relationships with people from different backgrounds, while addressing real world issues. A student who has at least one meaningful CEL experience is left with the ability to navigate future experiences at Cornell and beyond.”
“My favorite part of my job at OEI is individualized coaching sessions that support students in finding their purpose. Hearing how students are squaring their passion for making a difference and what their communities are calling them to do inspires me.”
Mike Bishop is director of student leadership, cultivating a vibrant network of leadership educators at Cornell to in turn support students in integrating their community-engaged learning and leadership experiences. 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 mentoring. He views his work as strengthening democracy by providing emerging leaders with the tools to build healthy communities.
During his twenty 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 M.Ed. 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. Within his first career in youth development Mike also worked part time with The Kitchen, Inc., as a homeless shelter youth activities coordinator and served as chief instructor with Homeward Bound with the Massachusetts Division of Youth Services and as a teacher with Head Start.
Immediately after graduate school 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 and mentoring opportunities to students. Mike has cultivated these and other cross-generational learning spaces inside and outside of higher education.
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.
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 B.A. 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 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 curricular and co-curricular learning in order to integrate academic, personal and career threads along varied pathways to leadership.
Perhaps owing to the deep respect Mike had 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 is co-founder and active with Dryden Groton Plus-Human Dignity Coalition. Since arriving in Tompkins County he has served as president of the board of the Multicultural Resource Center and on the leadership circle of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ). 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 serving his home region and helping to prepare Cornell students to enrich their communities, while promoting the university’s national standing in the areas of community-engaged leadership.