Shaka Smart wins sport on academic team

K enyon senior Shaka Smart was one of twenty students recently named by USA Today to the tenth-annual All-USA College Academic Team, honoring students for outstanding intellectual achievement and leadership.

Smart was featured in the Thursday, February 25, edition of USA Today. On Friday, February 26, Smart attended an awards luncheon at USA Today headquarters in Arlington, Virginia, along with his mother, Monica King, and Associate Provost and John Crowe Ransom Professor of English Ronald A. Sharp, where he received a $2,500 cash award.

A native of Madison, Wisconsin, Smart was chosen for pursuing research on legal and social identification of multi-racial people in the United States; studying race-consciousness in the south side of Chicago, Illinois; being co-captain of the basketball team; serving as a basketball big brother; teaching summer programs for inner-city high-school students; and working on faculty selection committees and the Multicultural Admissions Committee.

During his junior year, Smart conducted his research on multi-racial people for Associate Professor of Sociology and Legal Studies Ric S. Sheffield. In his current work, he is completing an honors project in history on the Great Migration and the City of Chicago. The Great Migration refers to the movement of African-Americans from the South to cities in the North, which is the subject of a three-year project being under-taken by the department.

"He's a terrific, hard-working, intelligent, diligent student," said Smart's faculty advisor, Peter Rutkoff, National Endowment for the Humanities Distinguished Teaching Professor of History, in an interview with the Collegian. "He's done just really superior work here ever since I've known him."

In recognition of the tenth anniversary of the All-USA College Academic Team, USA Today hosted a roundtable discussion on issues facing students and educators. Smart was a member of the panel that included present members and selected members of past all-academic teams and five high-ranking college officials. In USA Today's coverage of the event, Smart is quoted as saying, "The biggest challenge I see is preparing students for a drastically changing world. Diversity is a really big issue in higher education today, and that's something that we need to strive to achieve on several levels. More students of color, more faculty of color, more courses that offer a variety of outlooks and perspectives."

Smart, who says the award came as a great surprise to him, hopes to make a career in basketball as a coach. His future plans include working at California University of Pennsylvania as a graduate assistant coach to former Kenyon coach Bill Brown.

Winners were selected by a panel of judges from 983 candidates, nominated by faculty members at colleges across the country. According to USA Today, outstanding individual scholarship or intellectual achievement and leadership roles in activities on or off campus were the most important criteria to the judges. Students were also judged on academic performance, honors, awards, rigor of academic pursuits, and the ability to express themselves in writing.

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