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Rochelle D. Smith Appointed as SLU’s Next Vice President for Diversity and Innovative Community Engagement

ST. LOUIS — Rochelle D. Smith, M.S., an accomplished diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) practitioner and senior-level administrator in higher education, has been selected as Saint Louis University’s next vice president for diversity and innovative community engagement.

Rochelle D. Smith portrait
Rochelle D. Smith, M.S. Photo courtesy AAMC.

Smith has devoted much of her career to tackling complex institutional challenges with a data-driven and research-based approach. Making campuses more welcoming for people from backgrounds historically underrepresented in higher education has been one of her priorities.  

“Rochelle Smith is an experienced leader who has designed and implemented innovative initiatives that advance equity in higher education,” said SLU President Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D. “I am grateful that she is bringing her expertise to the SLU community, and I look forward to working in partnership with her in the years to come.”

Smith is the inaugural associate dean of diversity and inclusion and associate chief diversity officer at the Yale School of Medicine. There, among other efforts, she co-administers the school’s Biological and Biomedical Science Diversity and Inclusion Collective, a student-driven program that fosters the intellectual and personal growth of underrepresented minority students. 

Smith also co-chairs the Intersections Science Fellows Symposium, an initiative designed to showcase the outstanding research contributions of postdoctoral students from historically underrepresented backgrounds in the sciences and assist them in securing faculty positions.     

Before Yale, Smith worked at Washington University in St. Louis for 22 years, most recently as the assistant provost for diversity initiatives. At Washington University, she founded the Diversity Pipeline Consortium for STEM and co-designed two faculty-of-color retention programs, among other accomplishments.    

“With her proven record of visionary strategic leadership, success working across boundaries, her breadth of management experience, and demonstrated ability to advance and embed diversity, inclusion and equity within an organization, Rochelle exemplifies all of the qualities required for this role and many more,” said SLU Provost Michael Lewis, Ph.D. 

Smith earned her Master of Science degree in health behavior research from Washington University School of Medicine, a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Chicago State University and a certification in executive leadership from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. 

When Smith begins her new role at SLU in October, she will lead the University’s Division of Diversity and Innovative Community Engagement (DICE), which is home to the Center for Social Action, Cross Cultural Center for Global Citizenship and Campus Kitchen, as well as initiatives that include the Atlas Week international festival and a diversity speaker series, among others.  

“I am humbled and honored to join the SLU family in this important role,” Smith said. “I look forward to working alongside the DICE team and building upon the legacy of my predecessors.”  

This legacy is particularly meaningful to Smith, whose late husband, Jonathan C. Smith, Ph.D., was SLU’s first vice president for diversity and community engagement. 

Rochelle Smith succeeds Amber Johnson, Ph.D., who served as SLU’s interim vice president for diversity and innovative community engagement since August 2021. Johnson plans to continue their teaching and scholarly pursuits as a faculty member in SLU’s Department of Communication and co-founder of the University’s Institute for Healing Justice and Equity.

“Amber quickly stepped into the role of interim VP for DICE and has been instrumental in the expansion and reimagination of the division,” Lewis said. “Amber has consistently shown deep commitment to justice and equity throughout their time as interim VP, and I am grateful for their hard work and dedication.”

About Saint Louis University

Founded in 1818, Saint Louis University is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious Catholic institutions. Rooted in Jesuit values and its pioneering history as the first university west of the Mississippi River, SLU offers nearly 13,000 students a rigorous, transformative education of the whole person. At the core of the University’s diverse community of scholars is SLU’s service-focused mission, which challenges and prepares students to make the world a better, more just place. For more information, visit www.slu.edu