Sunday, June 16, 2024

New president for Johnson C. Smith University

Johnson C. Smith University’s new president has familiarity with the private institution based in Charlotte.

Valerie Kinloch, a 1996 graduate of Johnson C. Smith University, will become the school’s 15th president effective Aug. 1. Kinloch has been a trustee at the 156-year-old college that was founded to serve formerly enslaved Black people and now has about 1,100 students studying in 22 degree programs, including a master’s in social work.

“It’s a dream come true to be invited to lead one of the finest Historically Black Colleges and Universities in America – and at the same time come home,” says Kinloch in a statement released by the university. “My years at JCSU were some of the best of my life. This university set me on course to grow beyond anything I could imagine, so it is incredibly gratifying to return and give back to the institution that helped make me who I am.”

Kinloch currently serves as dean of the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Education, where she oversees 300 full- and part-time faculty and staff, along with almost 1,000 students. While at Pittsburgh, Kinloch oversaw more than $9 million in capital projects and renovations as well as recruited faculty and led an academic transformation, according to a release.

She previously served as an associate dean and professor at The Ohio State University, and as a faculty member at Teachers College-Columbia University in New York City and at the University of Houston-Downtown.

“Valerie’s proven leadership, deep background in academia, and intimate knowledge of Johnson C. Smith University gives her the expertise and credibility to continue our transformation,” board Chair Steven Boyd stated in a release. “She is a dynamic leader and change agent pure and simple. She will help us continue to elevate the quality of education we provide as we deliver on our promise to mold the next generation of leaders for this community and beyond.”

Kinloch is a native of Charleston, South Carolina. She succeeds Clarence D. Armbrister, who led the university of about 1,100 students for the past five years. He helped secure an $80 million financial commitment through the Mayor’s Racial Equity Initiative to help fund the university’s strategic plan adopted by the board in 2021.

Kinloch wants to build on the university’s growing community support and raise its national profile with students, families, and funders by “telling the stories” of all the inspiring work happening at Johnson C. Smith.


“We need to make space for innovation and for different types of learning – not just inside of classrooms but also through internships, experiential engagements, and job placements with businesses, organizations and community groups with whom we have deep relationships,” Kinloch said. “We have to support critical thinking and provide an education that prepares students for the careers they want and that the community needs. We also have to encourage students to pursue even higher forms of education.”

Kinloch holds a bachelor’s degree in English and Literature from Johnson C. Smith University as well as a master’s in English/African American Literature and a doctorate in English, both from Wayne State University in Detroit. Her research, which focuses on the literacies of Black people in urban and rural contexts, examines equitable forms of teaching, learning, and leading. She has published nine books. Education Week named her to its 2023 list of the nation’s most influential scholars, and she also successfully served as President of the National Council of Teachers of English.

Kinloch, a lifetime member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, enjoys swimming, hiking and reading/writing poetry, and has special interest in spoken word and “found” poetry. She and her husband, Tom A’Hearn, will move to Charlotte this summer.

Boyd, a former Coca-Cola executive, will resign his trustee post to serve as interim president until Dr. Kinloch’s start date Aug 1.

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