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Unique Shaw-Smith Receives President’s Diversity Award

Unique Shaw-Smith, Cal Poly President's Diversity Award Recipient

In spring 2016 Dr. Unique Shaw-Smith received the Cal Poly President’s Diversity Award. As a first-year, tenure-track faculty member in the Social Sciences Department, Shaw-Smith was recognized for her outstanding efforts toward advancing diversity and inclusivity at Cal Poly. In addition to promoting diversity and inclusivity in the classroom and campus broadly, Shaw-Smith has engaged in no less than six separate diversity-related initiatives since arriving at Cal Poly in fall 2015.

Upon arriving at Cal Poly, she collaborated with the Office of Diversity and Inclusivity to analyze and report statistics on the recruitment and retention of male students of color at Cal Poly. She consulted with the Inclusive Excellence Council to develop the university’s strategic plan as it relates to diversity and inclusivity. She has completed Employment Equity Facilitator training (EEF) and served as EEF on multiple departmental committees, including a recent successful faculty search in the area of migration, race and gender. Shaw-Smith is a BEACoN mentor who works to educate and empower underrepresented students aiming to ensure their success at Cal Poly. She is a vocal advocate of diversity efforts across campus, including intensively supporting SLO Solidarity, LGBTQ students and students of color. She also serves as an invited member of the College of Liberal Arts’ Dean’s Diversity and Inclusivity Committee, which is tasked with strategic development and implementation of broader inclusivity and diversity both in the College of Liberal Arts and across campus. 

One example of the many brilliant ways Shaw-Smith has found to intersect her scholarship with her clear passion for social justice and commitment to student learning and development was her attendance at this year's “The Black Radical Traditions Conference.” Shaw-Smith volunteered to travel to the conference with a group of students, and has continued working with those students to develop and present findings derived from their experience at a number of events around campus. Along the way, she became a mentor, modeling and encouraging them as they went through the complex work of embracing their racial identities and finding their voices in bringing about social transformation on campus and beyond. That same spirit is woven into a co-taught course developed with Professor Alaniz, in which 12 Cal Poly students take class alongside 12 inmates – a perfect reflection of the social justice and student development potential that is embedded in our Learn by Doing tradition.

Shaw-Smith is also a tremendous support to her colleagues, amplifying others’ efforts toward cultural transformations and diversity. Her scholarship, pedagogy and leadership have shifted Cal Poly culture toward greater inclusivity and we have every confidence that her impact on our community will continue. Given Shaw-Smith’s successful integration of cutting edge research intersected with community impact, it was no surprise to faculty and staff in the Social Sciences Department that she was honored with the President's Diversity Award.

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