Denise A. Smith is deputy director of higher education policy and a senior fellow at The Century Foundation. Prior to joining TCF, Smith was the director of student engagement and college activism at Truth Initiative. She oversaw the College Programs student engagement programming, which focuses on leadership development, advocacy, and mini-campaigns to colleges and universities across the country.

Smith has worked with more than 200 colleges and universities, including historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), community colleges, and Women’s Colleges, providing technical assistance and strategic direction to achieve policy change. Additionally, she has worked with nonprofit partners to develop and implement grant programs for prevention, policy, and advocacy. She specializes in strategy development, policy solutions, partnerships, and stakeholder engagement.

With over a decade of experience working with foundations, nonprofit organizations, and higher education institutions, Smith has seen the positive change these institutions can make through community engagement. She has also witnessed that when given access to opportunity, students can achieve positive change when they are empowered through effective student engagement, mentorship, scholarships, and leadership development.

She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in higher education leadership and policy studies at Howard University, and is also the author of several op-ed articles in Diverse Issues in Higher Education about higher education, public health, and student advocacy. She received her master of public health degree from Morehouse School of Medicine and she received her bachelor’s from South Carolina State University and was recently recognized as a member of their inaugural 40 under 40 class.