Center for Diversity and Inclusion adds new assistant dean role

| Senior News Editor

The Center for Diversity and Inclusion, now in its third year on Washington University’s campus, has created a new assistant dean for inclusion and engagement position and has hired Dr. Christi Smith to fill the post.

The position’s creation further expands the office, which first opened to students in 2014, and will work on a number of objectives, including acting as a liaison to other offices on campus and assessing the effectiveness of Center for Diversity and Inclusion initiatives.

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The hire reflects the Center for Diversity and Inclusion (CDI)’s continued push to bring a variety of perspectives to their work, and they hope Smith’s background in academia—her doctoral work focused on educational inequalities and her first book focused on racial integration in the late 19th century—can broaden their approach to diversity and inclusion issues on campus.

“She is an accomplished academic, which I think is really exciting because I really want to think about our work here at the CDI not just as an extracurricular activity but as a co-curricular activity,” Associate Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs and Dean of the CDI Emelyn dela Pena said. “I think that she’ll be really great in helping us bridge the gap between Student Affairs and Academic Affairs and helping us to think about how we support the academic mission of the University.”

Smith herself hopes to address both parts of her title—inclusion and engagement.

“If you don’t make inclusion something that’s more broadly valued than the majority population…it fades away,” she said. “Right now, we’re in a moment of great political turmoil and people are really paying attention to this, but in ten years that might ebb and flow out. Part of what I want to investigate is how do you encompass diversity as part of a sustainability effort and how you engage people across campus in that effort.”

Aside from the duties relating directly to her title, Smith will also act as liaison to various other groups on campus.

“The bulk of what Christi will be doing will be being our liaison to some of the partner offices that we work with…like the Gephardt Institute, the Teaching Center or the Identity Literacy Initiative; so, she’s going to be working to strengthen our relationships with them,” dela Pena said. “I think her area of research and expertise really lies around engaged scholarship, really thinking about how we involve communities in the work that we’re doing…and, so, I think her expertise will really lend itself to that partnership.”

While she hopes to eventually accomplish all of these goals, however, Smith first needs to overcome some more logistical obstacles—like setting up her email account.

“I’m biting at the bit for it because when that happens, I can actually start setting up meeting with people and getting my work done,” she said.