National Institute on Aging

Four African American Scholars Who Have Been Appointed to New Positions

Royel M. Johnson is a new associate professor in the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California. He will also serve as the inaugural Director of Student Engagement for the Race and Equity Center at the university and as a faculty affiliate in the Pullias Center for Higher Education. Previously, Dr. Johnson was an assistant professor of higher education and associate director of the Center for Higher Education at Pennsylvania State University. He is co-editor of Racial Equity on College Campuses: Connecting Research and Practice (State University of New York Press, 2022).

Dr. Johnson is a two-time graduate from the University of Illinois where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in education policy studies. He holds a Ph.D. from Ohio State University.

Teresa L. Smallwood was named the Franklin Kelly and Hope Eyster Kelly Associate Professor of Public Theology at the United Lutheran Seminary in Philadelphia. She was associate director of the Public Theology and Racial Justice Collaborative at Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville. Prior to joining academia, Rev. Smallwood practiced law and served as an assistant district attorney in North Carolina for nearly 20 years.

Rev. Smallwood is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she majored in speech communication and Afro-American studies. She holds a master of divinity degree from Howard University in Washington, D.C., a juris doctorate from North Carolina Central University, and a Ph.D. from the Chicago Theological Seminary.

Charles DeSassure has been named dean of the business and information technology division at Rose State College, a public community college in Midwest City, Oklahoma.  He was previously the STEM dean at Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton, Virginia.  Earlier, he served Tarrant County College in Fort Worth, Texas, for 20 years in such roles as a professor, department chair, and program coordinator.

Dr. DeSassure is a graduate of Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College and Claflin University in South Carolina. He holds a master’s degree in computer resources and information management from Webster University in Missouri and a doctorate in computer science specializing in cybersecurity from Colorado Technical University.

Airea D. Matthews, co-director of the creative writing program and an assistant professor at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, was named poet laureate of the city of Philadelphia. Her first collection of poems Simulacra (Yale University Press, 2017) received the 2016 Yale Series of Younger Poets Award.

Matthews is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where she majored in economics. She holds a master’s degree from the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy and a master of fine arts degree from the Helen Zell Writers’ Program at the University of Michigan.


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