The University of Alabama’s Office for Academic Affairs has named Dr. Cassander Smith as the 2020-21 Provost Faculty Fellow. Smith, the second faculty member selected for this program, is an associate professor of English in UA’s College of Arts & Sciences. Her goal is to build working relationships across the wider UA campus and help the University improve its diversity and inclusion infrastructure through enhanced teacher training.

“I want to think through ways we can continue to implement programming that normalizes diversity and inclusion, rather than treating these topics as ‘issues’ that require special attention,” said Smith. “Normalizing diversity is key to maintaining an atmosphere on campus that is open and affirming of human differences, which in turn will help in the recruitment and retention of faculty, staff and students from diverse backgrounds.”

Applicants for the Provost Faculty Fellow Program outline projects they wish to undertake, which must align with objectives listed in one of the four goals of UA’s Strategic Plan. Its third goal is to “enrich our learning and work environment by providing an accepting, inclusive community that attracts and supports a diverse faculty, staff and student body.”

Working alongside UA’s Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Smith said her plan is guided by determining how the University’s administration can effectively make diversity training and class content more accessible, help normalize accessibility, encourage faculty and graduate students to support diversity and inclusion efforts and help promote

the work already being done at various levels across campus. Smith said she’s prepared two initiatives to begin her fellowship.
“The first is a two-day symposium that brings colleges from across campus into conversation with each other to discuss their successes and obstacles to promoting diversity and inclusion in their academic environments,” she said. “In line with the symposium, the second initiative involves the creation of an online information hub where the UA community can go to access information about teaching and diversity, including any outcomes resulting from the symposium.”

Smith said many campus units already include various aspects of teaching for diversity and inclusion, but her proposed website will bring all of that information together into one location.

“In addition, the site would include bibliographies, links to online training courses and teaching tools, like handouts and syllabuses,” said Smith. “Both initiatives are designed to provide the teaching community on campus with hands-on tools they can take into the classroom.”
The OAA established the Provost Faculty Fellow Program as a professional development and leadership program
for tenured faculty.