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Renée Smith-Maddox

Teaching Professor and Diversity Liaison

Renée Smith-Maddox's interests include teaching diversity, social innovation, and the capacity-building needs of nonprofit organizations

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Renee Smith-Maddox
Phone:  213.821.7053
Rank:  Teaching Faculty

Renée Smith-Maddox

Teaching Professor and Diversity Liaison

Renée Smith-Maddox's interests include teaching diversity, social innovation, and the capacity-building needs of nonprofit organizations

Media Contact


Renee Smith-Maddox, Ph.D. is a teaching professor for the USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work (SDPSSW). She teaches graduate level courses on topics such as design thinking, social change and innovation, organizational development, and also serves as a mentor and advisor for Capstone Projects. Dr. Smith-Maddox has a passion for inspiring and empowering others to create social change. 
She has more than 20 years of experience in the fields of nonprofit management, youth development, and college access. Dr. Smith-Maddox’s extensive knowledge in designing and managing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives is informed by her experience as an education analyst in the NYC Board of Education, an executive director in the social sector, and a teacher researcher with inquiry-based research projects in K-12 schools. 
She is an equity-minded practitioner, strategist, anti-trafficking advocate, and champion of empowerment initiatives for women and girls. As a venture catalyst, she is a thought partner, designer, planner, and facilitator committed to working with visionary leaders developing data collection tools for data driven interventions that advance equity and social justice.
At the school level, Dr. Smith-Maddox served as the inaugural Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. In this capacity, she provided the leadership for conducting the school’s climate study and developing a DEI strategic plan relevant to the mission and vision of the SSDPSSW. For five years, Dr. Smith-Maddox co-chaired USC’s DEI Awareness Week, an annual professional learning event that provided 100 sessions focusing on a range of DEI-related training sessions for students, staff, faculty, and alumni.
At the university level, she has chaired the Provost’s Diversity and Inclusion Council, led the DEI strategic planning process for 23 academic units, and co-chaired the Academic Senate’s Campus Climate Committee. Dr. Smith-Maddox has also conducted document analyses on hiring practices, faculty diversity, and DEI initiatives in higher education.
She also designs DEI Learning Labs as problem-solving spaces for leadership teams, administrators, students, staff, and faculty to address implicit bias and microaggressions and to reconceptualize a more diverse, just, inclusive, equitable classroom and work environment.
She holds a Ph.D. in Social Policy and Master’s degree in the Management of Human Services from Brandeis University, Heller School of Social Policy and Management. She earned her BA degree in psychology at Lincoln University (in PA).


2014/01/16 Renee Smith-MaddoxWashington D.C. Immersion - USC Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social WorkSocial Impact Fast Pitch


Brandeis University

Ph. D. 1994

Brandeis University

M. M. H. S. 1989

Lincoln University

B. A. 1976

Area of Expertise

  • Advocacy and Social Justice
  • Corporate Social Responsbility
  • Race Gender and Class in Organization Processes
  • Diversity
  • Social Work Education
  • Social Work
  • Policy Evaluations
  • Social Innovation
  • Race Culture and Ethnicity
  • Community Organizing and Engagement

Industry Experience

  • Program Development
  • Research
  • Education/Learning
  • Social Services

Articles & Publications

Preservice teacher inquiry: Creating a space to dialogue about becoming a social justice educator | Teaching and Teacher Education

Lynn, Marvin, and Renée Smith-Maddox
2007 In this paper, we reflect on our experience with an experimental inquiry component within a teacher education program in a large urban city on the West Coast of the United States. This learning space, which is referred to as “Inquiry,” promotes the integration of theoretical and practical knowledge through reflection and dialogue. We highlight how this inquiry-oriented process enabled preservice teachers to reflect on and dialogue about existing ideals of social justice and equity with regard to teaching diverse learners...


Using critical race theory, paulo freire’s problem-posing method, and case study research to confront race and racism in education | Qualitative Inquiry

Renée Smith-Maddox, and Daniel G. Solórzano
2002 In this article, the authors use critical race theory (CRT), Paulo Freire’s problem-posing method, and case study research to introduce an alternative instructional and pedagogical methodology in teacher education. These approaches attempt to get at deep-rooted ideologies by creating a space in a social foundations course for teacher candidates to unlearn their stereotypical knowledge of race while analyzing and theorizing what it means to teach a diverse student population. When using such a methodology, the authors recommend that teacher candidates have access to a variety of cultural immersion and field experiences in communities of color...


Educational aspirations of African American eighth graders | Race, Gender and Class

Renée Smith-Maddox
2000 This study uses cross-sectional data from the 1988 National Education Longitudinal Study of Eighth Graders to explore the factors affecting the educational aspirations of African American eighth graders and the extent to which this goal-oriented variable varies by class and gender. The results indicate that a combination of family (i.e., parent's expectations, parent involvement, poverty status, and parent's education), community (i.e., discussing high school plans and careers with an adult outside of the family and participation in activities outside of school) and school measures (i.e., mathematics test scores and placement in low ability groups) have a direct effect on aspirations. These factors represent a combination of social and cultural resources that are embedded in a young adolescent's social network. Within this network the young adolescent has a variety of experiences with individuals in their family, school, and community. It is in this domain where aspirations are developed.



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