Welcome to the 2023 version of Western Carolina University’s “The Black Fantastic.” Last year, the University Communications and Marketing team created “The Black Fantastic” to highlight excellence among a few of WCU’s Black faculty and staff members. The project went on to win three platinum awards from the Hermes Creative Awards, an international competition that is one of the oldest and largest creative competitions in the world. During Black History Month, we continue that artistic and creative look at some of the people responsible for shaping and mentoring the great minds of the future.
Manifestation is the conscious creation of circumstances and outcomes that make for a fulfilling life. Raised in a single-parent household of four out of inner-city Cleveland, Ohio, BaShaun Smith understood at a young age what hard work looked like. “I learned early on that I didn’t have to run through a brick wall to know it hurts,” Smith said.
Bound and determined, he began to fulfill life’s buckets. As a first-generation college student, Smith achieved a bachelor’s degree in history and political science, a master’s in college student personnel, and a doctorate in Educational Leadership. Smith married his wife Chauncey, had three children, Shaun, Sophia, Sterling and has a fourth on the way.
His ascent at Western Carolina University, starting in 2016, has been no small feat. Climbing the ladder from assistant to associate, and then director of the Department of Residential Living, and on to interim and now dean of students, Smith absorbed knowledge and inspiration from all that invested and lifted him along the way.
“I’ve been so blessed,” Smith said. “In five years, I was afforded five opportunities to grow and learn how to lead staff and students to becoming their best selves.”
Endearingly known as the resident “Mr. Steal Your Staff,” Smith’s approach to supervising is considered “out of the box.” He believes 98% of jobs can be learned and fosters a work environment where space and tools are given for that growth.
“I believe in investing in your people, personally and professionally, and to lead with heart,” Smith said. “It’s fitting because I happen to have a heart shaped birthmark on my arm and Valentine’s Day is my favorite holiday.”
Smith continues to look up, manifesting the next chapter of his life. He foresees a continued career in higher education as a vice chancellor of Student Affairs and has future visions of becoming a chancellor of a university.
“Representation matters,” he said. “If I can have a larger impact on higher education practices by making everyone feel included, then that’s what I’m going to do.”