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Student Success 2024

Marshall Mitchell

Cal State LA graduate, Charmaine Chui
Graduating Cal State LA student-veteran achieves college goals at the age of 71
Ontario resident to receive bachelor's degree in business administration

College of Business and Economics

College of Business and Economics

At 71 years old, Marshall Mitchell will earn his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with an option in management later this month from Cal State LA’s College of Business and Economics.

Mitchell, a Vietnam War veteran, paraphrased an old Army recruiting campaign slogan when explaining why it was important for him to continue his higher education goals at a time when most people his age are already years into their retirement.

“You want to be all that you can be,” he said. “Just like in the Army.”

He cited other reasons as well. Mitchell said he promised his late mother, Ruthie Mae Washington, and five siblings years ago that he would complete his studies, and he also wants to serve as inspiration to his five grandchildren.

But Mitchell’s degree will not serve just as a wall decoration at the Ontario home, nor just as a mere symbol of his determined “all that you can be” attitude. Mitchell—who has not worked for nearly two years because of an unprovoked, racially-motivated attack in October 2022—intends to use the degree to help him find a job in management.

“I have no plans to retire,” he said.

Not only that, but Mitchell is also determined to attend graduate school.

The Texas native joined the Army toward the end of the Vietnam War in 1975. His service to the country would last 35 years, and following his initial stint as a soldier, would also include time with the Navy, Marines, and Army Reserve.

He spent a large part of his military service as an office clerk, which cultivated his interest in management and human resources, and eventually led to his decision to major in business management.

After his discharge, Mitchell moved to Northern California to take care of his ailing father. It was there where he began his academic career, earning Associate of Arts degrees from Laney College in Oakland and the City College of San Francisco, the latter of which led to a career in information technology.

Mitchell moved about four years ago to Southern California, where he obtained an associate degree in business administration from Fullerton College. He transferred to Cal State LA in January 2021.

As if Mitchell did not face enough challenges as an older undergraduate student, he was dealt a setback in October 2022 when he was brutally attacked by three men while working as a security guard in Monterey Park.

T. Fox, director of Student Success and Advising for the College of Business and Economics, praised Mitchell’s resiliency.

“After facing so much adversity, Marshall could have easily given up on his goal of obtaining a bachelor’s degree,” Fox said. “He had to learn to adjust to a new educational environment as a non-traditional student. He could have dropped out of school [after the attack].”

Mitchell said it took him a year to fully recover.

Said Fox, “Angela Duckworth defines grit as ‘a personality trait possessed by individuals who demonstrate passion and perseverance toward a goal despite being confronted by significant obstacles and distractions.’ This definition accurately describes Marshall Mitchell.”

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California State University, Los Angeles is the premier comprehensive public university in the heart of Los Angeles. Cal State LA is ranked number one in the United States for the upward mobility of its students. Cal State LA is dedicated to engagement, service, and the public good, offering nationally recognized programs in science, the arts, business, criminal justice, engineering, nursing, education, and the humanities. Founded in 1947, the University serves more than 26,000 students and has more than 250,000 distinguished alumni.

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