Queensborough Community College Announces New Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Position

Dr. Kerri-Ann M. Smith has just been named the Inaugural Faculty Fellow for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Queensborough C
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Dr. Kerri-Ann M. Smith has just been named the Inaugural Faculty Fellow for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Queensborough Community College.

Dr. Smith, a proud CUNY graduate, is a teacher at heart, having begun her teaching career as a part of the fifth cohort of New York City Teaching Fellows. Smith also taught for a year at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, the first private, historically Black, four-year College in Arkansas.

“These experiences drive me to ensure that we cater to our students and provide a warm, welcoming environment for our faculty.”

Smith describes teaching at Philander Smith College as one of the best professional experiences of her life.

“It was the first time I worked with a mostly Black faculty. The students, including international students, had a solid resource in their mentors.”

As much as she enjoyed teaching there, she felt the pull of family and wanted to come back home to New York.

“Once I saw a CUNY job I qualified for, I interviewed. CUNY was calling,” said Smith, a first-generation immigrant who was born on the Caribbean island of Jamaica.

Smith has now been at Queensborough for over nine years. During her early years at the College she met Dr. Wilma Fletcher Anthony, Department of Counseling, who took her under her wings.

"Wilma saw herself in me, and though she was not my formal mentor, her influence was instrumental in ensuring that I fulfilled all requirements for tenure and promotion. She was generous with her time and interested in my progress as an instructor and researcher. She asked me to co-author an article, an honor that significantly boosted my position as a scholar.”

Smith is determined to pay it forward. Now, as Queensborough’s Inaugural Faculty Fellow for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, she will have the ideal platform to do so.

“I am very proud of Queensborough for creating this position,” remarked Smith, a founding member of the Black Faculty and Staff Association. She has also served on the Faculty Diversity Committee for six years as well as the CUNY-wide Diversity Incubator.

“It speaks to our true commitment for faculty of color to feel valued and supported. I have always imagined that with its diverse student population, Queensborough could be a bellwether for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in CUNY.”

On her new role, Smith said, “I want to create space for junior faculty of color to feel seen, to help them maintain a robust teaching and publishing record, secure mentorship, navigate the tenure process, be promoted, and be successful, overall. My goal is to encourage them to amplify their work, both in and outside the college community.”

Over the course of the next 18-months, Dr. Smith will make recommendations related to developing curricula that are inclusive and anti-racist, and that reflect the rich cultural and socioeconomic heterogeneity of the college’s student population. As Faculty Fellow, she will serve as a mentor to junior faculty of color and ensure that issues of equity and inclusivity are addressed in the Office of Academic Affairs, and in the programs and courses it offers.

“Junior faculty of color—especially Black ones—carry the heavy burden of service overload. We are burdened by the desire to create safe, welcoming spaces for ourselves. We sacrifice publishing time to serve on multiple DEI committees just to ensure that we can be seen, heard, and understood. This is not a burden that the majority of our colleagues share.”

Smith’s own hard-won achievements are amplified across many platforms. She is one of a small cadre of federally cleared Jamaican Patois translators in the country, and is a senior writer for http://www.jamaicans.com, the third most-read publication for Jamaicans. She also translates titles and captions for documentaries on major streaming platforms such as VICE media and interviews Jamaican ministers of government, and Jamaican celebrities.

In addition, Smith has been a frequent guest on Caribbean Classroom on QPTV. In 2014 Caribbean Life’s 40 Under 40 Award recognized her contribution to the Caribbean community in New York City. The New York Times recognized her as a Teacher Who Makes a Difference and while in graduate school, she won the Excellence in Teaching Award.

Smith’s research interests are in culturally responsive pedagogy, and curriculum and instruction. She has traveled across the Atlantic to do professional development through an exchange with teachers in Ghana (Valley View University) and Nigeria (Babcock University). She pursued her doctorate in Educational Theory and Practice focusing on the experiences of first-generation West Indian immigrants in NYC schools.

She has also trained teachers on differentiating instruction, specifically how to address different learning abilities and help students learn optimally.

“Strong diversity plays an instrumental role—not only in attracting outstanding faculty, but just as importantly, retaining them as well. This is impactful for the Queens community, CUNY, and for the world.”

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