T. Shá Duncan Smith has been selected to join the college as the new associate dean of diversity, inclusion and community development. The appointment was announced on March 16, and she will be leaving the University of Michigan Ross School of Business to join Swarthmore.
Smith expressed her excitement about joining the college. “Everyone I met demonstrated their commitment to building true collaborations and continuing to develop an environment where campus community members can thrive,” said Smith. “The warm and candid interactions, coupled with the opportunity for professional growth, solidified my decision to join the Swarthmore community.”
The search for a new associate dean of diversity began last fall. Dean Liz Braun chaired a search committee that consisted of students, faculty, and staff members. Members of the committee were chosen by the SGO, Braun, and a committee of faculty members.
The committee consulted Isaacson Miller, a search firm with locations in Washington DC, Boston and San Francisco, to recruit candidates for evaluation. In the fall, the firm visited campus and met with members of the college community to better understand what qualities would make a good match in applicants.
According to Braun, the committee narrowed down candidates to three finalists from a large pool. They analyzed feedback from the community on each finalist before submitting personal opinions and final recommendations to Braun, who made the final decision as Chair of the search committee. Smith received a unanimous recommendation from the search committee.
Kara Bledsoe ’16 was one of two student representatives on the committee. “As a student on the committee I was primarily assessing each candidate’s aptitude for working with Swarthmore students,” said Bledsoe. “Al Brooks, the other student representative, and I hosted student sessions during the on-campus interviews to allow space for students to directly connect with the applicants, and [we] opened ourselves up to feedback from students [to] take back to the general search committee.”
As the online course description for the position of associate dean states, Smith will be in charge of engaging students to form a diverse and inclusive environment. She will be working closely with groups across campus, including the Provost’s Office, Human Resources, Dean’s Office, Black Cultural Center, Intercultural Center, Interfaith Center, and Women’s Resource Center. As associate dean, Smith will have an especially important part in promoting diversity and inclusivity. This includes promoting a community that embraces all backgrounds.
“I am excited to see what coalitions Smith can help construct,” said Bledsoe. “Collaboration is very important for success in enacting enduring change, and I believe student voices will be strengthened as we grow in this understanding.”
“We all felt that both in terms of her depth and breadth of knowledge and expertise and her genuine warmth and caring personality that she would be the ideal next associate dean of diversity, inclusion, and community development,” said Braun.
Professor Liz Vallen, a member of the search committee, expressed confidence in Smith’s ability to build upon and engage with the community. “Smith’s proactive approach to building community and encouraging dialogue was evident from our first meeting. She is both practical and visionary, and her warm, open, clear, and engaging manner as well as her diverse set of experiences makes her a great fit for our community.”
The unanimous endorsement of Smith by the search committee was in part due to how collaborative she is. “Smith’s recommenders uniformly describe her as a well-trusted, respected, thoughtful, and highly collaborative leader with an impressive depth and breadth of knowledge in diversity, equity, and inclusive excellence,” said Braun. “They also note that she is warm, down to earth, inspires and motivate others, and possesses the ability to listen closely and deeply.”
Smith held many roles at the University of Michigan. According to Braun, she served as the intercultural programs manager in the Center for Global and Intercultural Study and a coordinator at both the School of Public Health and in the Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs. She lectured for intercultural and leadership courses at the College of Literature Science and Arts from 2011 to 2013. She received a B.A. in sociology, a Master’s degree in social work from the University of Michigan, and will be completing her doctorate in higher education management at the University of Pennsylvania.
Smith will be joining the college on June 1.