Dr. Monica Smith leaves Augie after five years


Linh Tran

Dr. Monica Smith, the current vice president of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion works in her office at the Steven C. Bahls Institute for Leadership and Service.

Gavin Nicoson

After five years of service as Augustana College’s first vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion, Dr. Monica Smith will take on a new role next year as the associate vice president for equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging for the Wisconsin school system. 

According to an announcement written by President Andrea Talentino and forwarded to students by Smith, her new responsibilities will involve the oversight of chief diversity officers from the system’s 13 campuses. 

Having served as a member of the president’s cabinet since 2018, Smith has been deeply involved in student affairs. Senior Stephanie Carreno participated in the Student Leaders for Inclusion, Diversity and Equity (SLIDE) program under Smith’s leadership.

“The goal is to become recognized leaders and student professionals in diversity, equity and inclusion,” Carreno said. “Part of that program included reading a book called ‘UGH!?! Not Another Diversity Book’ by Justin Brown. We met and talked about the book and our own experiences. At the end of the year, we got to meet the author, and it was a cool experience.”

Within the SLIDE program, Smith worked alongside Ashley Allen, director of the Office of Student Inclusion and Diversity. In addition to on-campus programs like SLIDE, Allen said that Smith’s influence has extended into the Quad Cities.

“We’ve done a lot of community-facing events letting not only the campus community know that diversity is important to us, but inviting our community into our campus,” Allen said. “We just had ‘Step Afrika!’, and drew in over 1,500 people.” Having led many such events, Smith’s leadership has impacted Augustana students and community members alike. 

She also worked alongside the administration. Kent Barnds, Augustana’s executive vice president of external relations, said that Smith has left a lasting impact on the college’s leadership and practices.

“She’s brought a laser-sharp focus to her work and has a really elevated Augustana’s approach to becoming an inclusive community,” Barnds said. “She has had an incredible focus on students first and foremost, but also has impacted, in a really positive way, the way the college goes about hiring employees.”

Smith’s style of communication, Barnds said, has encouraged openness within the administration.

“Monica often presents herself as vulnerable, and as a result, we sort of all share in our vulnerabilities around matters of diversity, equity and inclusion. She’s done pioneering work which will serve her successor very, very well,” Barnds said.

That successor has yet to be decided upon. 

Despite Smith’s upcoming departure, Allen said that the college is in a strong position regarding diversity, equity and inclusion.

“Her leadership is embedded in so many different areas of the college that even when she’s gone we’ll still be able to carry on that legacy,” Allen said. 

As Augustana moves forward into the next academic year, it is clear that Smith will remain a part of the college through the lasting effects of her work in diversity, equity and inclusion.

“I always learned something new from her,” Carreno said. “There’s no better way to say it – she’s such a badass woman.”