The University of Indianapolis announced in November that Amber Smith would become the university’s new Vice President For the Chief Inclusion and Equity Officer. Before coming to UIndy, Smith worked at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock for seven years. Smith’s previous role at UA Little Rock was assistant vice chancellor of student affairs. Smith officially started her new role at UIndy in January.
As vice president and chief inclusion and equity officer, Smith’s role is to create a sense of belonging in the diverse community on campus, University President Robert Manuel said. Smith said she plans to create focus groups and activities that focus on inclusion and equity at UIndy. Manuel said that with Smith starting her new role, the university is presented with an opportunity.
“There’s an opportunity to have someone who can help us engage the diversity of the people that exist in our population, and that includes faculty, students and our alumni…[and help them] become world citizens, and culturally competent and understanding of how to help everybody achieve their best,” Manuel said. “This position is going to help us keep that together.”
While Smith has only been at UIndy for a few weeks, she has already met several members of the UIndy community, according to Manuel. He said that he thinks Smith will make an impact in her new role as chief inclusion and equity officer.
“She is very out in the community,” Manuel said. “I see her engaging and listening to what we might need and what we might want to do. I find her to be a really good fit.”
Smith said her role is to help create a sense of community that allows everyone to feel that they belong and celebrates who they are. Manuel said Smith is an expert in the field of inclusion and equity and that his goal is to support her as she creates a vision of what inclusion and equity will be at UIndy.
“She has begun to think about what is important to the university, and what I like about her approach is she’s crafting a solution for the university that is unique to us,” Manuel said. “It’s not something she saw somewhere else that [she just applied [to UIndy]. In order to do that, she has to listen to a lot of people and understand the university and that will take a lot of time, but she is doing that really well right now.”
Smith said that she is from Oklahoma City and she graduated from the University of Arkansas Little Rock. Smith said that she had many reasons for taking the position at UIndy, including how much people at UIndy genuinely care about what they do.
“There’s a lot of people who have been here a really long time because they really love the institution,” Smith said. “They love UIndy and so that says a lot about an institution when people like it there.”
Manuel said he finalized the decision to choose Smith for the role of vice president and the chief inclusion and equity officer because of her background experience. Smith has experience working with students and working within a system, he said.
“She has a very deep [level of] experience working in equity and inclusion and she had a vision for the university that matched the vision of Sean Huddleston, who was in the position previously, had,” Manuel said. “It was a nice connection between the work that Sean did and the work that she has done in Arkansas.”
Smith said she felt a connection with Indianapolis when she came to visit. She said that before coming to UIndy, she was wanting to be in a place that was larger than Little Rock and that had more arts and cultural opportunities. Her personal adjustment from living in the South to Indianapolis was a happy change for her as she liked the size, art scenes, as well as the possibility for snow, she said.
“I really enjoy the performing arts. I really enjoy music,” Smith said. “I loved the opportunities that UIndy presented to engage with the art scene here…. In addition, I really liked the Indianapolis downtown.”