Assistant Professor Antija Allen of Pellissippi State Community College is among 21 faculty and staff from colleges and universities across Tennessee who have been selected to participate in a year-long leadership program.
The Maxine Smith Fellows program provides professional development, training and advancement opportunities for participants from traditionally underrepresented groups at the community and technical colleges governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents, as well as those working at Tennessee’s locally governed public universities.
“I like that the focus is on diversifying leadership positions, which can reach beyond TBR,” said Allen, who has been teaching psychology at Pellissippi State since 2017.
It’s a topic dear to Allen, whose book with co-editor Justin T. Stewart, “We’re Not OK: Black Faculty Experiences and Higher Education Strategies,” was accepted for publication by Cambridge University Press and will be released by August 2021.
“We have a book coming out later this summer that focuses on faculty representation, mental health, inclusion and retention, and I thought, ‘Wow! This is what our book is all about!’” Allen said, reflecting on the Maxine Smith Fellows program. “This is the feeling of TBR investing in us.”
College and university presidents nominate eligible faculty and staff from their campus for consideration for the program.
“I am so pleased Dr. Allen was selected to participate in the Maxine Smith Fellows program,” said Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise Jr. “It is an outstanding opportunity for leadership growth and development for someone who has demonstrated a deep commitment to professional learning while at Pellissippi State.”
In addition to the professional development of class members, the program stimulates increased collaboration among institutions, development of a statewide network for program participants, and an overall increase in the diversity of ideas, thoughts and experiences within senior leadership ranks at Tennessee public higher education institutions.
“Maxine Smith Fellows alumni have advanced to senior leadership positions, including seven Fellows who have gone on to serve as presidents at colleges and universities in Tennessee and in other states,” said Wendy J. Thompson, the program’s administrator and TBR vice chancellor for organizational effectiveness. “Many of them have said that the Maxine Smith Fellows experience contributed to their success.”
A native of New York City, Allen has been teaching in higher education since 2004. She earned her doctorate from Columbia University three years ago.
“Columbia is known for churning out changemakers, and that’s what I’ve been doing,” Allen said.
In October 2020, Allen was awarded a TBR grant to help her and two colleagues create free learning materials for Pellissippi State students who take General Psychology.
Allen has been serving as champion for Pellissippi State’s emotional intelligence cohort, one of several professional development tracks the college offers for faculty and staff, since 2019. She also is finishing a two-year term as Pellissippi State’s faculty fellow for the high-impact practice of First-Year Experience, helping lead other faculty through the Pellissippi Academic Center for Excellence.
“These three roles I’ve had are ending, and the Maxine Smith Fellows leadership program will help me answer, ‘What’s next?’” Allen said.
The Maxine Smith Fellows program is named in honor of the late Maxine A. Smith, who headed the Memphis Branch of the NAACP for 33 years and was a member of the Tennessee Board of Regents from 1994 to 2006. The Class of 2021-22 is the program’s 15th cohort.