Chelda Smith 2021 Rising Alumni

Chelda Smith

Chelda Smith is an Associate Professor of Elementary Education at Georgia Southern University. Her research, service, and activism centers the experiences of historically marginalized communities, particularly people of color. She is the co-founder and director of a Masters of Arts in Teaching program focused on cultures and communities, now one of the most competitive programs in the state. Chelda is also a community leader with extensive off-campus involvement and service, including efforts to enhance the quality of education in Haiti, and a committed mentor and adviser for her students. As a black woman working toward racial justice in teacher preparation in rural Georgia, Chelda frequently encounters adversity. It is her conviction about the necessity of her resistance efforts coupled with realized support from a few co-conspirators that allows her to persevere.

Current Job

Associate Professor, Georgia Southern University

CEHD Degree

PhD Culture and Teaching, Curriculum and Instruction, 2014

Please list any professional accomplishments you wish to mention.

13 publications, over 25 national and international conferences, winner of the inaugural College of Education’s Commitment to Diversity Award, co-creating and directing a Master of Arts in Teaching program focused on Cultures and Communities with over 100 candidates and 100% pass rate in edTPA, 3 external grants.

What is your favorite memory from the University of Minnesota?

Joining and being embraced by The Black Graduate and Professional Students Association (BGAPSA).

What professor(s) or course(s) were most influential during your time in CEHD?

Bic Ngo was the most influential professor of my doctoral studies primarily because her expectations of me were always far beyond what I could imagine. She would guide me to achieve those expectations and was never surprised when I exceeded them. She modeled culturally sustaining pedagogy at a time in my professional development when learning is assumed to be autodidactic. I am forever grateful.

What was the impact and benefit of your educational experience in CEHD?

Although I earned two degrees before coming to UMN, in many ways, my doctorate felt like the ideal undergraduate experience because that's when "I found myself." With so many people invested in my potential and peers to journey with, CEHD awakened me.

What skills are important to succeed as an emerging professional today?

I would think adaptability and reliability are crucial, but that mostly applies to historically marginalized populations. I think effective communication skills, especially when writing, are essential. Finally, I would encourage any emerging professional to cultivate a resilient response to feedback.

When you have 30 minutes of free time, what do you do?

Search for homes in random housing markets.

How do you describe yourself?

I live in pursuit of Intersectional Black Feminist Liberation, joy and security (however illusionary). I'm aware of the contradiction betwixt liberation and a false sense of safety and I grapple with it daily.

What's a good book you'd recommend to others?

Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall

If you could have coffee with anyone from history, who would it be?

Audre Lorde. Just the thought excites me because when I read her work, I feel like she saw me and my complexities before I was even a thought.

What gets you excited about work?

Raising the consciousness of future teachers in ways that impact their personal lives and (hopefully) translates to their professional lives.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A meteorologist.