New IDEAS Center director looks forward to role


IDEAS Center Director Lisa Nicole Smith hugs Jada Thomas, ’23, president of the Association for the Advancement of Black Culture, at a welcome reception for Smith in the Campus Center on Monday, Sept. 26.

The Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Access, and Social Justice Center has been without a director since the beginning of this semester. The center’s previous director, Darnell Tucker,left the college in July..

Lisa Nicole Smith has been appointed as the new Director of IDEAS Center. She took her post on Monday, Sept. 26.

“I’m very excited to be at Allegheny,” Smith said. “What I’m looking forward to most is deeply immersing myself in the diversity we have on campus.”

The community formally welcomed Smith during an introductory event on her first day in room 301 of the Henderson Campus Center from 3-4:15 p.m.

“This event was intended to make (Smith) feel welcome and a part of the Allegheny community from day one,” said IDEAS Center Program Coordinator Mikka Hunt. 

Hunt described her experience of solely overseeing the IDEAS Center for the first month of the semester.

“The role of the director is to serve as a liaison between the IDEAS Center and the administration, whereas my role focuses more on connecting with students and the (Cultural, Identity and Leadership Coalition) organizations and looking over logistics,” Hunt said. “Recently I’ve had to do double the amount of work I usually manage and have spent most of my time in the office.”

The IDEAS Center Intern Crystal Hernandez, ’23, said that the absence of a director has affected the capacity to which she can serve her role.

“The intern usually works directly with the director,” Hernandez said. “I had a good understanding with (Tucker), but I’m looking forward to working with (Smith).”

Despite it being her first week of work, Smith already feels a connection with the IDEAS Center staff.

“We’re going to learn to work better together but the initial feeling has been good,” Smith said. “I’m happy to be working with everyone here.”

Smith elaborated on why she chose Allegheny as her new workplace.

“I was looking for a position where I could use my relationship-building skills and my wisdom regarding student theory, along with my passion for diversity and inclusion,” Smith said. “Allegheny has members in its community from all over the country and the world, and I want to serve as a resource to the students, particularly those students that have been historically overlooked.”

Although Smith is new to Allegheny, she is not new to Northwestern Pennsylvania. Smith explained that she’s lived in Erie for some time.

Smith is also not new to working in higher education.

“(Smith) has experience in working in diversity and inclusion centers in higher education institutions, so she is very familiar with the type of work she’ll be doing,” Hunt said. “She also has experience working in admissions and recruitment.”

Before joining Allegheny, Smith was serving as the Director and Developer of the Multicultural Engineering Program at the University of Alabama.

As an undergraduate, Smith studied East Asian Studies with a specialty in Japanese language and culture at DePauw University. As a graduate student at the University of Northern Iowa, she focused on post-secondary education and student affairs.

“I’ve had a lifelong passion for studying different cultures, which truly came to light during my time in college,” Smith said. “I had a great support system that helped me achieve my goals as a student and I’m hoping to do the same for students here.”

Smith emphasized that the critical thing students must understand is that the IDEAS Center is a space for them.

“I want to see more students stop by and say hello instead of just walking past,” Smith said. “The administration has provided this space for students to feel at home and make their own … .There’s plenty of resources we have to offer and I want students to utilize them.”

In addition to the current IDEAS Center events, such as its theme nights, Smith hopes to increase engagement with students via more outreach and events.

“Something that I want to look deeper into is celebrating different ethnic heritage months,” Smith said. “I want students to be able to decide and celebrate things that are important to them and their heritage.”

Hernandez is hoping that the IDEAS Center will find enough stability to reach its productive potential.

“(The IDEAS Center) has done a lot of great work throughout my time at Allegheny but has suffered from a lack of consistency,” Hernandez said. “This is the third director I have seen and it’s my fourth year at Allegheny.”

Tucker was widely appreciated by students and was known for being friendly and accommodating, according to Hernandez. She is hopeful that Smith will be able to tailor similar connections with the student body.

“(Tucker) always had a smile on his face and found time to talk despite his busy schedule,” Hernandez said. “From what I’ve heard about (Smith), I’m sure she’ll be just as popular with the students.”

Smith said that, so far, she is getting a positive reception from the students.

“Three days in and I’ve already started having meetings with students … they’re very proactive and approachable,” Smith said. “I’ve even started putting names to faces.”

Smith has started her role as director by changing the layout of the furniture of the student space in the IDEAS Center and is looking forward to making more improvements.

“I plan to watch and observe as well as interact with the community for the first few weeks,” Smith said. “I want to make sure that I understand the community’s needs before implementing changes.”