HBCU Agents of Change: Hampton’s Taylor V. Smith

Taylor V. Smith is a current first-year graduate student at The George Washington University (GWU) studying Higher Education Administration. Her research interests include analyzing structures and systems that support as well as enhance retention and graduation rates at HBCUs, TRIO programs, and the role of college access programs assisting first-generation college students to and through college.

Taylor is also the Assistant Program Coordinator for the Faculty in Residence program and is an Academic Success Coach at GWU. Prior to enrolling and working at GWU, Taylor served two years as a College Preparation Coach with College Bound St. Louis and two more years as the organization’s Partnership Manager.

A native of St. Louis, MO, Taylor says her love and admiration for HBCUs began in summer of 2005 she went on her first Historically Black College and University Bus Tour sponsored through her high school, McCluer North. Taylor remembers telling her mom and dad about the history she learned, seeing students who looked like her engaged in college, and that one day she would be a graduate of an HBCU – which became her reality.

She graduated from Hampton University in 2013 with a degree in Fine and Performing Arts concentration in Graphic Design.

Taylor believes the purpose of higher education is to achieve social justice and equity in our society. Her life mission is to dismantle systems and power structures that shape the future for students who come from marginalized communities. She has presented her research at the District of Columbia College Personnel Association (DCCPA) conference on an organizational model she constructed for HBCUs to implement when developing departments to support retention and graduation services. In 2016, Taylor created a workshop called HBCUs: The Rundown. The workshop provides a historical understanding of HBCUs while exploring best practices for the college going process for students.

“While working in college access I would see that HBCUs were either being left out of college advising conversations or being discussed in a damaging manner with students. As a graduate of an HBCU this was heartbreaking. Here I am a product of one and I hear colleagues and associates refer to them as less than or as last choice options. I decided that year I would develop a workshop that I could bring to schools and organizations that would combat this way of thinking.”

November 2015, The St. Louis HBCU Alumni Association was launched by Keli Singleton with the purpose of engaging and reclaiming alumni, participating in social and civic activities, raising scholarship funds, and promoting the HBCU legacy within the St. Louis community. Taylor served as a member of the 2016 -2017 inaugural executive committee.

Taylor is a proud member of several organizations including Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated; American College Personnel Association (ACPA), FOCUS St. Louis, St. Louis HBCU Alumni Association, and The George Washington University’s Black Graduate Student Association. Her academic, leadership, and volunteer honors include honors as Delux Magazine St. Louis’ 30 under 30 Awardee, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc’s “Think HBCU” Hall of Fame Achievement Award and the Coalition of Multicultural Affairs American College Personnel Association’s Outstanding Graduate Student.

Learn more about “HBCUs: The Rundown” workshop and/or Taylor’s career and academic journey here.