Honors College announces associate dean of academic affairs

Cassander Smith says she’s prepared after a decade in UA classrooms.

Grace Schepis | @GraceSchepisCW, Staff Reporter

The Honors College will welcome Cassander Smith as associate dean of academic affairs beginning May 16. This position, new to the Honors College, was created to expand its administrative board while ensuring that honors students get the best educational experience possible. 

“This is a new position within the Honors College and will be working with other departments and units to support honors students and honors courses,” said Tara Williams, dean of the Honors College. 

Williams, in her first year as dean, was part of the committee tasked with filling the position.

The process began last fall with a search committee that included honors faculty and associate deans from other colleges. Honors College Assistant Dean Ross Bryan chaired the committee. Each finalist gave a presentation earlier this semester to Honors faculty and staff, campus partners and student representatives. 

“Dr. Smith has an outstanding record of cross-campus collaboration and leadership,” Williams said. “She also has deep expertise in inclusive pedagogy, having organized faculty workshops and published peer-reviewed research in this area. She will be a vital addition to our leadership team, and I’m delighted that she is joining the Honors community.”

Smith has been a part of the UA community since 2010. In the classroom, Smith teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in early African American, American, Caribbean and Renaissance literature. 

“One of the things that I’m particularly interested in is helping the Honors College in terms of fostering diversity and inclusion, which is something that Dean Williams has been really focusing on since she got here,” Smith said.

Throughout her time at the University, Smith has served as the co-director of UA @ Oxford, College of Arts and Sciences Leadership Board Faculty Fellow, Provost Faculty Fellow, co-founder of African American Women in English, editorial board member for Early American Literature and president of the Early Caribbean Society.

Smith said her engagement with students in the classroom has prepared her to develop an academic agenda that would best serve the development and growth of students.

One of Smith’s goals is to increase accessibility of Honors College resources to students who are outside of the program. 

“There are a lot of great things that students in the college experience, in the classroom structure, that I think would be super beneficial to students who are in classes outside of the Honors College as well,” Smith said.

The Honors College has a minimum test score requirement. There are alternate paths to admission for in-state students who ranked in the top 5% of their graduating classes, and test-optional admission for others. 

“The Honors College has a history of producing stellar students,” Smith said. “Students who come through the college can stand up against your students coming out of the Ivy League and the best institutions around the world. So I definitely want to make sure that I’m doing my part to make sure that we keep producing that caliber of students.”