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Enhancing Understanding of Urban Community Colleges

Dr. Everrett A. Smith

Title: Associate Professor of Higher Education; Provost Faculty Fellow, University of Cincinnati

Age: 39 Education: B.S., psychology, Middle Tennessee State University; M.S., leadership and policy studies, University of Memphis; and Ph.D., public policy, University of Arkansas

Career mentors: At the risk of omitting so many people who have been instrumental in my career as a mentor, I would prefer to say thank you to everyone that has poured into me in that capacity

Words of wisdom/advice for new faculty members: “First, take care of yourself, build a supportive community around you, ask questions, and protect your peace. Second, fi nd your calling and follow your academic passions. Do the work that motivates you, contributes positively to your fi eld, and can be used to benefi t others.”

“Everrett is an incredible teacher, an incredible scholar, and an incredible colleague,” said Dr. Michael T. Miller, professor of higher education and public policy at the University of Arkansas, about Dr. Everrett A. Smith. “In an era when so many faculty and young scholars are trying to just focus on their scholarship or focus on writing the book, Everrett is that rare individual who can bring it all together.”

Smith, who earned tenure in 2022, is an associate professor of higher education and program coordinator of educational leadership in the College of Education, Criminal Justice, Human Services, and Information Technology at the University of Cincinnati. His research contributes to the understanding of the factors that influence financial, governance, and policy decisions in higher education. Recently, he has focused on community colleges and the financial and governance elements of these institutions that provide crucial higher education access for millions of people.

“My work has increasingly focused on higher education in the urban context, including examining the interplay between cities and higher education institutions,” said Smith. “I’m interested in how elements of urbancity influence decision-making and priority-setting at these distinctive types of institutions.”

Smith was recently named guest editor for the summer 2023 issue of New Directions for Community Colleges, which will focus on urban community colleges. He says he looks forward to bringing fresh discourse, as the issue will focus on the structures of urban community colleges and examine the experiences of those engaged with these institutions — students, faculty, staff, and trustees. 

He says he sees himself as an advocate, using his work to advocate for students and better policies that advance higher education and increase student success. In his role as provost faculty fellow, Smith advises and guides the design and direction of academic and student success initiatives.

“One of the purposes of my work is to influence and direct operations of colleges and universities,” Smith says. “As access institutions, community colleges have the opportunity to address the postsecondary educational needs of students and their families. They should benefit from continued investment from policy and political leaders.”

Miller describes Smith as a “natural teacher.” Smith teaches graduate courses but is interested in teaching an undergraduate honors class on education philanthropy. He says he teaches how he wants to be taught with students learning not only from the professor, but also from each other. He creates a student-centered environment with a thoughtful space for dialogue and supportive feedback.

“I attempt to establish a class environment where students can freely express themselves within the context of the content, issues related to higher education and public policy,” Smith says. “I want students to motivate me as a teacher by challenging me to provide the best, most effective instruction by using multiple approaches.”

Smith is the founding program coordinator for the University of Cincinnati’s Urban Education Leadership online doctoral (Ed.D.) program. The program’s focus is leadership and policy both in K-12 and higher education. He worked with colleagues to conceptualize, design, and implement the program.

Smith anticipates his research, which is rooted in principles of equity and inclusion, will contribute to a national profile of structured and intentional philanthropic efforts on the part of community colleges.

“Community college leaders should be prepared to make good, informed decisions regarding their fundraising strategy,” Smith says. “I think that academic researchers and practitioners have an opportunity to engage with this line of inquiry because it is under-researched, but also because it is important for how we think about the financing of community colleges and philanthropic contributions toward student success agendas.”

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