Board Spotlight: Amanda Smith, MPA

Amanda Smith Headshot IU NorthwestCEA Chronicle we are sharing a Board Spotlight, we are thrilled to introduce Amanda Smith, MPA is the Assistant Director, Center for Urban and Regional Excellence at Indiana University Northwest. She is a dedicated member of the Community-Engaged Alliance Board of Directors and the Advisory Council Chair. Amanda brings a wealth of experience and a tireless commitment to advancing community engagement in higher education. 

Returning to Indiana: A Personal and Professional Decision 

Amanda has moved all over the country and worked in various positions including Pennsylvania, Utah, Arizona, Hawaii, and California. Amanda's decision to move back to Indiana was influenced by both personal and professional factors. "I'm originally from Indiana, and so I actually, you know, was a graduate of Manchester University and Indiana University Northwest. There was a long journey in between those two programs that could take a while. Suffice it to say, I knew for a very long time that I wanted to end up back in higher ed and also public service," Amanda explained. The opportunity to get her Master of Public Affairs at Indiana University Northwest made perfect sense. It was serendipitous that the position for Assistant Director opened in her final semester of graduate school, and she successfully applied for it.  

A Journey Rooted in Community Engagement 

IU Northwest with Amanda Smith on floor Student Photo Shoot 1Amanda Smith has always been passionate about community gardens. During her time out west, she was heavily involved in a community garden project, which brought people together, provided fresh produce, and educated the community about sustainable practices. Now, in her current role, she supports a similar initiative in Gary, Indiana. Amanda finds it incredibly rewarding to see the impact these gardens have on local communities, enhancing food security and fostering a sense of community and shared purpose. 

Rapid Rise in Community Engagement 

Amanda Smith's journey in community engagement in higher education began at the same time she was appointed as a campus liaison at Community-Engaged Alliance. She recalls, "When I was first appointed campus liaison and I was learning about the organization, it was a perfect time for me to be learning because I was new to my position. There were all these resources and opportunities for professional development, and I really just took advantage of that." This initial exposure laid the foundation for her ongoing dedication to community-engaged work. She went from a campus liaison, then then advisory council chair elect for a few months and then the chair all within one year.  

 Learning through the Pandemic  

She actively participated in various programs and leveraged the resources provided by CEA to enhance her understanding of community engagement. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Amanda's involvement became even more crucial as she navigated the challenges of maintaining engagement and supporting her campus community through unprecedented times. Her proactive approach and commitment to learning and collaboration were key to her effectiveness during this period. 

Embracing Opportunities and Professional Development 

IU Northwest Senior University Steering Committee Dec 2023

Amanda has consistently leveraged the resources provided by the Community-Engaged Alliance. From attending annual retreats to participating in book clubs and other programming, she has immersed herself in learning and networking opportunities. "Anytime I could get a chance to learn more about community engagement and the best practices, I was all about it because I was new to this work," she shared. This proactive approach has allowed her to build connections with professionals across various campuses and regions, fostering a supportive network. 

 Guiding Through Change 

IU Northwest with Amanda Smith taking photo of studentsAmanda joined the Community-Engaged Alliance Board of Directors during a significant amount of change. The organization was becoming independent, rebranding and hiring a new Executive Director.  "When I joined the board, we were navigating a critical period of disaffiliation and rebranding. It was a challenging but transformative time. I played a part in ensuring our communication was clear and consistent, and that we maintained our focus on the mission despite the changes. During the Executive Director search, my priority was to find someone whose vision aligned with our goals. The process was exhaustive, but the support and collaboration from the other board members were incredible. They are welcoming and supportive, making sure everyone’s voice is heard and valued. This environment has been crucial for our success and resilience as an organization." 

Looking Ahead 

As Amanda continues her work, she remains a pillar of support and innovation within the Community-Engaged Alliance. Her insights and experiences enrich the board's mission, and her relentless drive inspires us all to remain engaged and proactive in our endeavors. 

We are proud to spotlight Amanda Smith and celebrate her contributions. Stay tuned for more updates and stories from our board members who are making a difference every day. 

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