Douglas Smith has officially left his position as coordinator of the Umoja Center as of Oct. 20, and had a going away party Fri. Oct. 27. He is leaving to work at Pasadena City College to be the first person in their new role as Black Student Success Specialist.
“I guess it’s honestly just a better opportunity for myself and for my family. It’s no secret that the CSU system does not pay well,” Smith said. “It’s not a secret and I think that is also a large contributing factor, I’m just trying to make sure I can pay my bills.”
Smith knew he would be leaving for three weeks before his final day and said that the process has been pretty quick. He explained that it has been a difficult decision to come to but he is grateful for his time and experiences at Cal Poly Humboldt.
“I’m just having to accept it and look at it as a way to grow,” Smith said. “But, I’m just thankful that I’ve been able to find a place where I can continue doing the same work that I’m doing, continue doing this good work, and also not have to feel like I’m compromising my livelihood and my family.”
Director of Student Life Ravin Craig is filling in as interim coordinator for both El Centro and the Umoja Center but declined to comment on the process of hiring new coordinators. Academic Advisors, Harrell Deschaizer (Umoja) and Brianna Rodriguez (El Centro) have also stepped into the role of helping to oversee and coordinate the centers with Craig.
“Douglas has done amazing work for our campus including, supporting the Black campus community through COVID navigating administrative and departmental changes, budget cuts and advocating for academic advising services in the center, Douglas has given countless hours to the students, staff and faculty of the Humboldt community and the center and campus are forever changed by his accomplishments,” Craig said in an email announcing Smith’s going away party.
Fernando Paz is the former coordinator for El Centro, he left this position in June 2023. He is now the Campus and Community Coordinator in the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
“Doug leaving is a loss,” Paz said. “It’s a huge loss and they need to value him leaving by finding somebody who can do … they won’t be able to replace him. But somebody who can fill that role soon, quick. Not wait a whole semester like they did with me.”
Many students and faculty had a lot to say about Smith leaving, overall expressing their disappointment in the university.
“Hopefully they’ll be able to find someone who cares like he did because that is what made him so special is that he cared,” said Umoja Center student assistant Michael Steelman. “He actually took the time to sit down, look at students in the eye and care what they were going through and solve the problems that he could.”
Umoja Center student staff Kaelyn Trapsi, said that students had more than just a work bond — it was a familial bond. She said that students have built a report with Smith and that it is going to be difficult to replace and establish when they get a new coordinator.
“Douglas Smith is exactly the kind of person the university should turn cartwheels to retain and I am heartbroken that he’s leaving, and I am deeply unhappy that we didn’t do something to keep him,” said Christina Accomando, professor of English and Critical, Race, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. “He is a community member and a scholar as well as a staff person and he brought so much to the student body, to the Umoja center, to the community and it is a loss that we’re not going to recover from.”