So, what’s it like to run an organization for Brainiacs? That’s what I aimed to learn as I sat down for lunch with Trevor Mitchell, executive director of American Mensa, on a rainy afternoon. Paul Martin’s American Grill provided respite from the weather outside, with a warm French dip and steaming clam chowder lunch combo we both ordered.
Mitchell took the helm of the high-IQ society’s U.S. operations in January 2018. The group has about 55,000 U.S. members—nearly 1,700 in Dallas-Fort Worth—and a staff of 22 at its home base in Arlington. It’s part of Mensa International, which has 110,000 members in more than 100 counties.
As one would imagine, it takes a lot of smarts to get in. Members score in the top 2 percent on intelligence tests, or roughly have an IQ of 132 and up. The youngest member of American Mensa is three years old, and the oldest is 109, Mitchell says.
Signature events include Mind Games, a three-day marathon where Mensa members test and rate new strategy games.
It’s his job as executive director to support the organization’s local chapters, finalize its annual budget, and facilitate board meetings. But his chief responsibility is to bring people together. He plans and coordinates American Mensa’s two signature events: a four-day gathering in July and Mind Games, a three-day role-playing and strategy game marathon where about 400 Mensa members rate and test new-to-market games. Each year since 1990, the five top-rated selections at Mind Games have been awarded the coveted Mensa Select designation.
I ask Mitchell about his career path and how one becomes the leader of American Mensa. “I had no idea the scope of nonprofits that existed or even the number of member organizations out there, but I always knew I wanted to work with people,” he says.
After graduating from Columbia College, he took a job as a marketing director for Project Construct’s National Center. He moved to Kansas City a couple of years later to take a leadership role with ARMA International, a membership organization for people who manage and govern information assets. Along the way, he picked up his MBA from the University of Missouri.
In 2015, Mitchell was identified as a potential successor for American Mensa’s then-executive director. He moved to Dallas to join the group and served as senior director of membership and strategy before taking the helm two years ago.
“I knew I wanted to lead a member organization that I could align myself with, and with Mensa, I felt that,” Mitchell says. “I could relate to being someone who didn’t feel accepted. I came out as gay in a small farm town. Finding that community and a place to be accepted, that’s what our members feel when they come to Mensa.”