Interim Dean of the Dougherty Family College Buffy Smith

Dr. Buffy Smith Discusses 'Belonging and Inclusion' With Higher Education Panel

Dr. Buffy Smith, interim dean of the Dougherty Family College at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota, recently participated in a national panel discussion called "Designed With Inclusion in Mind: Belonging in Higher Education."

She stated, "I am encouraged that due to the demographic shifts in trends in higher ed that we're finding more colleges and universities being more intentional about creating programs, policies and events that focus on inclusion and I am encouraged with new first-year student programming events. I am encouraged that colleges and universities are including holidays like Indigenous [Peoples] Day as an official academic holiday and that speaks largely about inclusion."

Additionally, Smith discussed the value of culturally sustaining pedagogy, such as that taught at Dougherty Family College. She said that this method is "an asset-based approach to teaching that centers students' lived experiences and their rich cultural backgrounds in the classroom."

Dr. Buffy Smith, top center, speaks as part of a panel discussion about belonging and inclusion in higher education.

She said culturally sustaining pedagogy has three core components. One, faculty have to have high expectations and standards; they want to help students achieve academic success by making sure they provide culturally affirming support. Two, faculty serve as cultural translators. They provide students with access to the dominant or mainstream culture of higher education while also honoring, valuing and sustaining the home and community practices of students. And three, faculty work hard to help students develop those critical thinking skills they need to understand, examine and critique existing social order.

"These three core components are important in terms of fostering a sense of belonging and inclusion," Smith said. "Culturally sustaining pedagogy recognizes that students are producers of knowledge and not just consumers of information."