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Staff Spotlight: Jahshua Smith

August 2, 2022 - Jesús Hernandez and Beth Brauer

Name: Jahshua Smith (he, him, his)

Job Title: DEI Specialist for James Madison College

Hometown: Detroit, MI


Prior to joining James Madison, what sort of work were you doing?

For the last four and a half years I worked with a non-profit, Michigan College Access Network, as a coordinator and supervisor of AdviseMI, an AmeriCorps program centered on increasing college attainment and completion by providing resources to students in underserved communities.

For most of my post-undergraduate career, I have worked in education to try to eliminate barriers for students, in and out of Michigan.

How will your previous outreach/work experiences help you with the goals you have for your role here in Madison?

Having had the experience of working with people from diverse backgrounds, but also understanding how the transition for students from high school to college can look wildly different for each incoming attendee, it allows me to think outside of the box for resources that help each student achieve their goals regardless of their background or identity. 

What advice would you give to JMC students from minoritized backgrounds who may be struggling to find community?

My biggest advice would be for them to hold JMC faculty and staff accountable. Often, we task those in the minority with the responsibility of being the change they want to see and, while that approach is still one that I encourage, as a community, it is our collective responsibility to be supportive as students navigate our school and space. Beyond that, I definitely encourage students to understand that community can be created and fostered both within and outside the walls of Case Hall.

The most formative experience I ever had at MSU was not in a registered class, but as a member of Multi Racial Unity Living Experience — Intercultural Aide Program (MRULE-ICA), a co-curricular learning experience, which still yields benefits for me to this day.

Who has inspired you the most in your life?

My parents. I often joke that I ended up doing exactly what they did, as my mother did extensive non-profit work before landing at a university (Wayne State), and I actively pursued music like my father. They’ve both been inspiring in different ways, but mainly because there were resources for me to learn what I truly wanted from life with plenty of room to navigate that as I grew up.

Also, a special shout to one of my professors, Dr. Richard Thomas, who was a mentor to me here at MSU and played a huge role in influencing my learning and thinking, as he always encouraged me to look at history and do research rather than rely on rhetoric and conjecture.

What do you like to do outside of work that may surprise others?

Google my name and you will see that I have a longstanding career in a pretty specific genre of music that might seem like a contrast to the work I’ve done in my career, but the two go pretty hand-in-hand with my arrival as a specialist in a college designed to discuss public policy and international affairs.