Institute for Developing Across Differences

Meet the Global Peer: Sherwood Smith

Meet the IDD Global Peer

Sherwood Smith, EdD

Each month we ask a colleague who is a member of the IDD’s Global Community of Practice* to share more about their reflections, inspiration and hopes for the field.

Following are reflections from Sherwood Smith (EdD)Senior Executive Director for Inclusive Excellence and Faculty Engagement and Lecturer in the Department of Leadership & Developmental Sciences at the University of Vermont as well as Founding Member of CQ Strategies, an organization offering consulting, training, and coaching in the fields of Diversity and Intercultural Communication.

Read the full interview with Sherwood to learn more about his professional philosophy and work, about who inspires him, and what has helped him to succeed in moments of seemingly insurmountable difference.  [Interview edited for clarity.]

If you were to sum up your professional philosophy in 50 characters or less, what would it be?

I must be willing to learn, to try, and to care.

What project are you working on now that has you most engaged and what is the biggest benefit you see it providing to whom?

I am teaching a class or doing a workshop on cross-cultural issues, the constructions of identity or constructions of whiteness.  The comment “I never …..(knew, realize, understood, was aware….)” gives me hope and the participants’ gifts of my continued learning from them give me inspiration.

What is your most memorable experience when you personally encountered a seemingly insurmountable difference? How did you overcome this?

I am not sure there is just one. A memorable encounter was while working in Tanzania I met two sets of US Baptist missionaries. I had strong negative opinions about the historical impact of missionaries in the Americas and globally.  I think it was both my curiosity, having never actually spent time with a missionary, and their honesty and openness to complex conversations about culture, privilege and power that led us to become friends. Perhaps, my ability to hold my own opinions in check until they were validated or proven wrong left me open to new perspectives and friendships.

On a rough day, what inspires you to keep doing the work you’re doing?

There is a book by Derick Bell, titled Faces At The Bottom of the Well. It reminds me that there is always hope in the struggle and that to ignore injustice and cruelty is to support them. In my life I have often been unaware of the importance of small actions on my part to make a difference and it reminds me to continue to try my best without being sure of the outcome, to be open to reimagining and to listen to ideas that challenge me.

“Education leads to enlightenment. Enlightenment opens the way to empathy. Empathy foreshadows reform.”
― Derrick A. Bell, Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism

Who is one person in our professional field today who you are/have been most inspired by? How/Why specifically have they inspired you?

Dr. John “Jack” Condon was my first formal intercultural role model and teacher. We met during my first time at Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication in 1989 at Marylhurst College in Portland, Oregon. I had recently returned from directing a School for International Training’s college semester program for US students in Kenya for two years. As an African-American back in the US, I was struggling to meld my experiences of culture, marginality, race and status. Dr. Condon gave me ideas, language and theories to understand how power and privilege intersect with culture. He share his own challenges, intercultural experiences in Tanzania and understanding of race/racism. His patience, compassion, humility and wisdom continue to inspire me to strive to embody these qualities. Jack is a friend, mentor and teacher to me still.

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Meet Sherwood and other peers at our next IDD Global Community of Practice calls on November 23, 2022 and throughout 2023.

In November, our topic for reflection and discussion will be the intersections between DEI and ICC.

*The IDD’s Global Community of Practice is an informal, non-commercial setting in which we connect, discuss, and share timely and timeless topics with passionate, experienced “Differences” peers from different backgrounds, regions, age groups, and focus areas.

Do you have topic ideas for future IDD Global Community of Practice gatherings? Would you like for us to consider profiling you in a future edition? Get in touch with our Community Lead Nadine Binder.