Kenneth A. Smith
- W. George Pinnell Award for Outstanding Service (2007)
- Indiana University South Bend
College of Arts and Sciences
Department of English
BIOGRAPHYKenneth Smith sees service as much more than just a duty to one's community. In his view, service benefits him as much as it does those receiving it. "My knowledge is deepened by this work," he says. "Taken in the right spirit, service makes me a stronger teacher, administrator, and scholar."
As director of writing at IU South Bend from 1994-2002 and again in 2006, Smith applied his philosophy of service to reshaping the campus's writing program. Upon his arrival, he immediately engaged English department faculty in the development of new, more rigorous standards for introductory writing courses. As the author of Literacies, a widely adopted English composition textbook, Smith brought both experience and new energy and ideas to the department, inspiring his colleagues to join him as partners in this effort.
Smith also worked to link writing courses with other fundamental skills courses in an effort to increase student success and retention. In 2000, he collaborated with Professor Morteza Shafii-Mousavi of the Department of Mathematical Sciences to connect developmental courses in English and mathematics. This initial collaboration grew into the IU South Bend Connections Program, eventually expanding to include introductory courses in other fields.
Smith's service to IU South Bend extends beyond the English department. Mike F. Keen, director of the Master of Liberal Studies Program, praises Smith's service as chair of the Graduate Liberal Studies Committee: "With Ken in the lead, we have significantly transformed our program, increased its rigor, provided a more clearly defined academic structure and curricular support to insure student success, and added a new public intellectual track." In addition, Smith recently accepted the editorship of Confluence, the journal of the Association of Graduate Liberal Studies.
Smith also played an active role in the development of IU South Bend's campus theme initiative, a major component of the campus's general education program, during its first two years. He helped plan theme-linked events featuring visiting scholars and artists during the project's inaugural year, then served as co-coordinator of the entire initiative this year. In Smith's words, the goal of the campus theme is to "enrich campus life in a focused way that invites connections to courses, extracurriculars, and the community."
In 2001, Smith collaborated with several other IU South Bend faculty to develop Michiana Chronicles, a public radio commentary series broadcast on local NPR affiliate WVPE. Participating faculty members take turns writing and recording weekly radio essays that reflect on contemporary life and culture. In addition to contributing numerous essays for broadcast each year, Smith maintains an informal leadership role for the group, setting the writing schedule, advising new writers, and updating the group's Web site.
Smith's experience with public radio served him well when, in 2004, he became involved with IU South Bend's American Democracy Project (ADP), part of a nationwide initiative of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Association of American Colleges and Universities. Smith proposed that the university create a blog to foster intellectual exchange and civil dialogue about issues of democracy. With support from the office of the vice chancellor for academic affairs, he developed an interactive blog that features students, faculty, staff, and community members writing about the political process, the quality of American democracy, and the challenges of active citizenship.
The blog's immediate success inspired Smith to approach WVPE with the idea of starting an ADP radio commentary series similar to Michiana Chronicles. The weekly series broadcasts many of the best pieces from the ADP blog, as well as other commentaries about issues of democracy and public policy. Smith recruits contributors and works with them to edit their pieces for radio broadcast.
"The American Democracy Project reflects Professor Smith's commitment to public service and his firm belief that public universities do more than educate citizens for individual gain; they educate and prepare citizens to take their rightful place in assuming a democratic good for all," says Alfred J. Guillame Jr., vice chancellor for academic affairs at IU South Bend.
Elizabeth A. Bennion, assistant professor of political science at IU South Bend and campus director of the American Democracy Project, credits Smith with increasing civic engagement on campus. "Dr. Smith's steadfast determination to elevate the level of dialogue on our campus, enhance our relationship with the community, and model good citizenship and civil dialogue for our students has resulted in a noticeable improvement in the level of civic engagement on our campus," she says.