Photo caption: Dr. Demetrius Smith looks forward to helping create new equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives and build on EDI programs already in place at UW-Eau Claire.
After his first six months as the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire’s first special assistant to the vice chancellor for equity, diversity, inclusion and student affairs, Dr. Demetrius Smith is more excited than ever about the university’s many EDI initiatives.
Smith also is happy to be in a role that gives him opportunities to help implement new EDI initiatives and to build on existing EDI programs and projects, says Smith, who was appointed to the recently created position in August 2020 after previously serving as the program director for the EDI division.
“I am extremely excited about this new opportunity,” Smith says. “With this being the inaugural position, I have the creativity and freedom to shape how this position will operate. UW-Eau Claire has a lot of exciting initiatives coming when it comes to EDI and I am thrilled to be a part of it in my new role.”
Smith says he looks forward to the continued development of the new Center for Racial and Restorative Justice that was established in fall 2020 as a clearinghouse for research, scholarship, advocacy and action for the UW-Eau Claire community.
In his current position, Smith also serves as director of the Blugold Beginnings program, a long-running program that is designed to educate and inspire students, especially underrepresented, low-income or first-generation students, to pursue postsecondary education. Smith praised the program’s founder, Jodi Thesing-Ritter, for helping him in the transition.
Among the new Blugold Beginnings program initiatives that Smith is excited to launch is a four-year Minority Mentoring Model, which will serve underrepresented students from their UW-Eau Claire orientation to their graduation. The program will focus on mentorship, scholastic achievement and opportunities for success, and will offer a tutoring program for students.
Teresa O’Halloran, interim vice chancellor for EDISA, says Smith already is making significant contributions to the campus in his new position, calling his work “vital” to the EDI strategic planning team led by Dang Yang and Drs. Heather Ann Moody and Anjela Wong. O’Halloran also applauded Smith’s work in his new roles, adding that the Blugold Beginnings program is “in very good hands under his leadership.”
“He has strong awareness of the issues facing our students and cares passionately about their success,” O’Halloran says. “I appreciate Demetrius for his analytical abilities and planning skills on the more administrative side of our work in EDISA.”
Smith is co-chair of the search for the next vice chancellor of EDISA, along with Dr. Mike Carney, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs. Dr. Warren Anderson left the UW-Eau Claire position in December to become the UW System’s senior EDI officer.
Smith, a native of Decatur, Georgia, started his professional career at Middle Georgia State University in Cochran, Georgia, where he worked in the registrar’s office and later in student affairs, where he dealt with housing and residence life, student organizations, student conduct and other issues.
Smith holds a doctorate in student affairs leadership from the University of Georgia in addition to a master’s degree in higher education administration and a bachelor’s degree in sports management from Georgia Southern University.