Wendy Smooth wasn’t expecting a job offer after she presented her research on the effects of increased diversity in lawmakers at an American Political Science Association conference in 2004. But when she finished, she was given the opportunity to join Ohio State’s faculty.

Smooth was stunned by the abrupt offer, and little did she know it was just the beginning.

Fourteen years later, Smooth was appointed as first associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion at Ohio State in the College of Arts and Sciences, a newly reconstituted position within the college.

Wendy Smooth was appointed as first associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion in the College of Arts and Sciences. Credit: Courtesy of Ohio State

In her role, Smooth works with administrative staff and academic departments to develop, promote, coordinate and advise diversity and inclusion initiatives across the College of Arts and Sciences. Smooth plans to be an advocate for ensuring that diversity and inclusion initiatives are implemented.

“I am so excited that we are pushing ourselves in the College of Arts and Sciences to do more around creating [diverse] types of learning spaces for our students,” Smooth said.

Throughout Smooth’s time at Ohio State, one question has stuck with her about increasing diversity within the college: “How do we include more people at the table?”

Smooth grew up in Jackson, Mississippi, and during high school worked on a campaign for Patricia Wise, an African-American woman who ran for judge. Throughout the campaign, there was resistance around the candidacy that made Smooth more passionate about the issue.

“[The campaign was a] moment of changing my life and giving me insight about what I wanted to do with my life,” she said.

Smooth went on to study political science at Xavier University of Louisiana, where she aspired to go to law school.

She had the opportunity to work for a pollster during college and said she was “blown away” by that experience. She was responsible for doing field work, traveling to polling places and calling in turnout numbers and candidate votes as they came in during local elections.

“I wanted to figure out how I could become a part of that world,” Smooth said.

Smooth’s interest in politics was linked with how to get more people of color and women elected and engaged in political processes.

Figuring out how to do that was not only a driving force for Smooth’s research, but a driving force in the way she thinks of any institutional space.

Smooth received her master’s degree at the University of Maryland and earned her doctorate in government and politics there in 2001. She started her teaching and research career at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in the political science department. In 2004, she became an assistant professor of women’s studies.

“One of the things I absolutely love about OSU is that you can always meet new colleagues,” Smooth said.

Smooth holds several positions within the university, including chair of the athletic council for the university senate, chair of the university senate diversity committee and associate professor by courtesy in political science at the John Glenn College of Public Affairs.  

As the associate dean of diversity, equity and inclusion, Smooth said she gets to strategically think across the college’s efforts to recruit a more diverse group of faculty and students and retain diversity within the college.

James L. Moore III, vice provost for diversity and inclusion and chief diversity officer at Ohio State, praised Smooth’s work and her character.

“[Smooth adds] value to advance diversity and inclusion throughout Ohio State University,” Moore said. “She is exceptionally bright and is an outstanding colleague.”