May 28, 2020

Inaugural vice-provost equity, diversity and inclusion earns Susan S. Northcutt Award

Malinda Smith joins UCalgary Aug. 1

UCalgary’s inaugural vice-provost equity, diversity and inclusion Dr. Malinda Smith, PhD, will be responsible for leading on issues of human rights, diversity, inclusion and equity with stakeholders across campus when she begins her role on Aug. 1. She is a nationally recognized leader on equity, diversity and inclusion and this past month her work in the field has earned her the Susan S. Northcutt Award.

“I firmly believe that the goals of equity and inclusion can only be advanced through team effort — each team member has valuable perspectives to offer and responsibilities to pull their weight. For me, the award recognizes my efforts but, more, it recognizes years of working with many others to effect sustainable change. The adage that you see me because I am standing on the shoulders of often-invisible giants applies to me and, I suspect, most of us in the academy,” says Smith.

  • Photo above: Malinda Smith. Photo by Amber Bracken, University of Alberta

The Susan S. Northcutt Award was established in 2003 by the Women's Caucus for International Studies of the International Studies Association. The award recognizes a person who actively works toward recruiting and advancing women and other minorities in the profession, and whose spirit is inclusive, generous and conscientious. It also acknowledges someone who has made significant contributions through service and competence to the field of international studies and to the International Studies Association.

Smith’s work has been focused on developing and advancing an intersectional and decolonial approach to equity praxis, one that insists we pay greater attention to ‘the doing’ of equity and decolonization, and on data, documentation, transparency and accountability to assess real change.

Some of her career highlights that led to the award include designing and decolonizing content in course syllabi, promoting for diversity in research and citational practices, and mindfulness about equitable student supervision and mentoring. She is also co-founder of the Race, Ethnicity, Indigenous Peoples and Politics section of the Canadian Political Science Association, and served as vice-president (equity portfolio) for the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Most recently, she served as the Provost Fellow (EDI Policy) in the Office of the Provost at the University of Alberta, and continues to serve on the Advisory Committee on EDI Policy for the Canada Research Chairs Program.

Smith admits getting an award and moving into a new role during the COVID-19 pandemic comes with mixed feelings but, also, a sense of urgency. “The global pandemic has intensified long-standing social inequities and generated new insecurities and vulnerabilities that call out for immediate attention and more effective policy and action," she says.

Smith says there is also opportunity in all of this. In her new role, she hopes to build upon the Alberta can-do spirit to help build a “new normal” that is more inclusive, diverse and equitable.

“Throughout this pandemic we have been reminded that this is a historic moment, a defining moment. I see this moment as a challenge, to be sure, but also as an opportunity to advance shared values and more healthy and sustainable communities.

"Universities have a critical role to play in this process of reimaging what is essential, possible, and desirable as we together emerge from this crisis.”