After nearly a seven-month search, the University of Indianapolis has named its next vice president for inclusion and equity. Amber Smith, the assistant vice chancellor for student affairs, inclusion and outreach, at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, was announced as the new vice president in an UIndy press release on Oct. 21. With Smith’s new role at UIndy, she will help with the development and implementation of UIndy’s vision and commitment to inclusion, equity and community partnership, according to the UIndy press release.
Smith said that she is very excited to be coming to UIndy as the new vice president for inclusion and equity. Smith said she was very impressed with what UIndy has been doing in relation to its strategy for inclusion and equity and she is excited to see what ideas she can bring to the university, in addition to collaborating with others who are interested in the strategy.
Smith officially begins her new role on Jan. 1, 2020. She said that when she arrives at UIndy, she plans to learn a lot about the university. She said that she understands that she is coming to a university with a unique character of its own.
“I think it’s really important that, when I come, that I am really open to hearing from the students, from the faculty, [and] from the staff,” Smith said. “When I came to visit my first time, I was so excited about how engaged students were. In student life, it was very clear that they were passionate about trying to fix problems. They are very passionate about what they thought should be happening. I think that there are a plethora of ideas and people who know the institution very well and have a stake in the institution.”
Smith was one of five candidates that the search committee for the new vice president brought to campus, according to search committee member and Associate Professor and Dean of the School of Education John Kuykendall. The pool of applicants was initially narrowed to 20 for phone interviews, Kuykendall said, and then the committee narrowed that down to the five they asked to come to UIndy for a visit, before selecting Smith as the new vice president.
“She [Smith] had a good story, in terms of her background and how she realized that she was different at being a person of color and that led her to really have a passion for working in this space,” Kuykendall said. “She picked up very early in her life that ‘I’m different. I don’t look like everybody else’ or ‘If I do like everybody, it’s only a few of us.’ That led her to have this desire to be a champion for students of color and people of color, [and] that also bring awareness around how to interface with groups if you’re not of that particular background.”
Smith said that coincidentally, she and Kuykendall previously had worked together at UA Little Rock, and Kuykendall’s being on the search committee had made the situation a little weird. She said they both had published articles together and worked together at the Dr. Charles W. Donaldson Scholars Academy, a scholars program for African American students in the city of Little Rock. She said that despite the weirdness, she feels honored to work with him again, along with other professionals at UIndy.
While at UA Little Rock, Smith was the director of the Dr. Charles W. Donaldson Scholars Academy, established the first African American Female Initiative and helped with the development of the Hispanic Initiative, according to the press release. She also was named a 2019 ACT College and Career Readiness Champion in the postsecondary professional category earlier this year.
Smith said that her previous experiences at UA Little Rock have put her in a position where she can be creative and find unconventional solutions to problems. She said these problems and solutions are often based on budget constraints, but that there always are things that one is going to have to navigate through.
“I believe that it is important to recognize that even though you might have limitations, that’s not an excuse for lack of productivity,” Smith said. “We still have to make an impact. We still have to impact change regardless of the obstacles that we face, and so roles that I’ve had up until this point have challenged me to do that. So I think that that will benefit me because I do feel like, from what I was receiving when I came there [UIndy], the message that I got was that people will be open to ideas and finding strategies and solutions in ways that we can respond and actually be forward-thinking, as it relates to equity and inclusion.”
Kuykendall said that he thinks Smith will provide the Office of Inclusion and Equity with a newer and more innovative approach. He said that Smith will be a good colleague and someone students will want to learn from.
“I think that she’s going to really put an emphasis on some areas that are needed on our campus, in terms of working with the faculty around inclusion and equity,” Kuykendall said. “Of a strong [candidate] pool, she came out as the person that we selected, and… we made the right choice. It was a good pool of candidates that we had in the committee, [and] if I say so myself, it [the committee] did a great job of working together and identifying somebody that would be good for UIndy.”