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Getting to know Dr. Steve Schmidt

I have lived in…

I’m originally from Wisconsin, and have lived in Philadelphia, PA, Chapel Hill, NC, and Greenville, NC.

My favorite teachers are…

  • Mrs. Nancy Frawley, my high school English teacher, and
  • Dr. Barbara Daley, my doctoral dissertation committee chair.

My favorite place to eat or favorite food to eat / prepare is…

Indian, Chinese, Thai, and Italian food.

Some cultural experiences who make me who I am…

Growing up in a family of teachers definitely helped shape my interest in education.

Before I moved to the world of academia, I had a career in business that involved a lot of travel, so I got to experience many different cultures around the world.

As a member of the LGBT community, living through much of the modern-day LGBT rights movement has shaped who I am. I have seen how far we (as a community) have come in a relatively short amount of time, and that gives me hope for the future.

Dr. Steve Schmidt's Biography and Background

Steven Schmidt is Professor in Adult Education and is a part of Department of Interdisciplinary Professions. His research interests are online teaching and learning, workplace training and development, and cultural competence.

Dr. Schmidt obtained his Ph.D. and M.S in Adult Education from The University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, and his Bachelor of Business Administration from The University of Wisconsin, Whitewater.

Professional Work

How do your beliefs about diversity, social justice, and equity manifest themselves in your research, teaching, advocacy and/or service?

As noted above, I have lived through much of the modern-day LGBT rights movement, and although I don't remember the Stonewall Riots of 1969, I do remember when many people thought being gay was a sickness, when LGBT issues were not discussed (except in negative ways) and when members of the LGBT community were marginalized and oppressed. I have seen, first-hand, how a marginalized community can come together and work for justice and equal rights, so I know social justice movements can work. I also know that we all have a responsibility to ensure that these movements (regardless of the community on which they are focused) continue to make progress, and that means all of us have to get involved and ensure that they do. I see my teaching and service as my ways of contributing to the bigger picture and a better world. I see my research, when it is published in books or journals, or when it is presented at conferences, as another way of making my community visible and of showing the value in it.

I also know that progress on social justice issues always starts with individual action. A lot of individuals, working together, each in their own way, can make big changes, and that's a key idea that I hope to instill upon my students.

Share with us an example of that kind of work that you are proud of or committed to.

I am proud of my work with the LGBT Resource Office here on campus. I am a member of the Center's Advancement Council, and my friend and colleague, Dr. Anne Ticknor and I hold an annual benefit for the Resource Office that has raised a lot of money for the center. I'm also involved in Safe Zone training. It's really exciting to see how many opportunities there are for the LGBTQA community on campus, and it makes me happy to see that so many students, faculty and staff on campus are involved with the center.

Whose work or research do you draw on to inform or support your work in areas of diversity, social justice, and equity?

Larry Kramer is certainly a leader in the gay rights movement, and especially his work throughout the AIDS crisis is something I study. The work he did focused a lot on education as a means of garnering support for your cause, so it's particularly relevant to us in adult education. Jane Addams is an historical figure who was far ahead of her time in women's rights and also in education for all members of society (especially the impoverished) as a means of improving society in general. I also have a great book that I use in the social justice and adult education course I teach called "Is Everyone Really Equal" (Sensoy and DiAngelo). It breaks down concepts associated with social justice in understandable, easy-to-read ways.

Who are your collaborators in this work? Who - in the field, at ECU, and/or in the College of Education - also does diversity and equity work that you respect?

I'm proud to work with many different people at ECU and beyond who focus on diversity, equality and social justice issues. Those with whom I serve on the LGBT Center Advisory Council certainly come to mind, as do many other colleagues in the College and in the University. It's a very supportive environment in which to work. Dr. Anne Ticknor certainly comes to mind, as do my colleagues in the Adult Education Program: Drs. Christy Rhodes, Kathy Lohr, and Phyllis Broughton. Drs. Scott Glass, Kylie Dotson-Blake and Allison Crowe in the Counselor Education program also focus on issues of diversity and equity.

How do you hope your field and society might change as a result of your work and that of others doing similar work around this issue

I know that education is key in helping social justice movements progress and in helping diversity initiatives to succeed. Education allows us to learn more about those who are different, and learning can lead to acceptance and appreciation. Hopefully, the work we do leads to more appreciation for diversity, which, in turn, will allow more people to be proud of themselves for who they are, and live truer, more authentic lives in societies in which they are valued for who they are.