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Williams School Professor Smith Embraces Role as DeLaney Center Faculty Fellow Chantal Smith, assistant professor of economics, was selected for the one-year position to pursue research and course development.

ChantalSmith05-scaled-600x400 Williams School Professor Smith Embraces Role as DeLaney Center Faculty FellowAssistant Professor of Economics Chantal Smith

The DeLaney Center named Chantal Smith, assistant professor of economics, as its first DeLaney Center Faculty Fellow during a ceremony on Sept. 29. The DeLaney Center faculty fellow position is chosen based on an open call to the entire university. Smith will serve in this capacity for one year, receiving a course reduction and a research assistant.

The DeLaney Center’s mission is to explore Southern race relations, culture and politics through a variety of disciplinary approaches and theoretical perspectives. Taking full advantage of ths university’s Virginia location and extensive archival holdings, the center provides unique opportunities for students, faculty, alumni, community partners and higher education colleagues to ponder how W&L’s long and complex history intersects with the racial issues that have defined and continue to shape both the U.S. South and the entire country.

Smith joined the W&L faculty in July 2021 after earning a Ph.D. in economics from Howard University. She also holds a B.S. in business economics from Florida A&M University, an M.A. in education from the University of Phoenix and an M.A. in applied economics from American University.

Smith is currently instructing two sections of the ECON 100 Introduction to Economics course at W&L. Her fields of specialization include labor, economics of education and environmental economics.

During her time as a DeLaney Center faculty fellow, the program will support Smith’s research project studying the status of economics programs at historically black colleges and universities in the South. Additionally, she will design a course that explores the labor development in the U.S. through the lens of race, ethnicity and class, with a primary focus on the American South. She hopes to involve students in her research, allowing these students to see the breadth of the economics field.

“Although I am trained as an economist, I am a history buff,” she said. “I used to teach high school level history, government, geography and economics prior to obtaining my doctorate in economics.”

The opportunity to combine these disciplines sparked Smith’s interest in the program, as race and Southern identity are a primary focus in her economic research.

“This type of research requires an interdisciplinary approach, so having an academic center with this specific focus is an excellent way to promote strong research in this area,” she added.

According to DeLaney Center Director Michael Hill, Smith’s position in the Williams School was key, as the program hopes to tie together the College, the Williams School and the Law School.

“Ongoing attempts to suture together distinguishing features of this university have sort of led us to prioritize that notion of partnership or collaboration,” said Hill. He believes that Smith will be a tremendous asset to the DeLaney Center. “Professor Smith is unique because she’s an economist who brings a specific skill set with a particular quantitative sophistication. Her disciplinary training and disciplinary skill set were exceptionally important.”

According to Smith, the impact of discussing Southern race relations in the classroom cannot be understated.

“I believe that you cannot change what you don’t acknowledge. There has been a trend in recent years to suppress the true history of race relations in Southern states because it is an uncomfortable truth. The fact is that over 56% of African Americans live in the South, and historically, it has been the South that has had the strongest resistance to historical truths,” she said. “As a Southerner, I have a vested interest in diving into the type of research that has impacted my home and family for generations. As Americans, we have a vested interest in investigating all issues that can help make our country better.”

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