Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities Names Winner of Rago-Craft Award
Airelle Smith is the assistant director for career advocacy and professional inclusion at the Office of Career Exploration and Success
The Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities selected Airelle Smith as the 2023 recipient of the Dr. Zaneta Rago-Craft Award.
Smith, the assistant director for career advocacy and professional inclusion with the Office of Career Exploration and Success (CES) at Rutgers University–New Brunswick, received the award for being an outstanding member of the community who offers exceptional leadership, campus involvement and commitment to campus change.
"We are so fortunate to have Airelle on the team,” said William Jones, the executive director of CES. “The work she is doing is so essential, and I am so happy to see our campus partners recognizing it as well.”
“I love working with our students and am grateful for the trust our campus partners have extended to me to work within their safe spaces to do outreach and advocate for these career student communities,” said Smith. “The greatest honor is getting to work with our students and campus partners every day. Receiving the Dr. Rago-Craft Award is a humbling bonus.”
Since March 2022, Smith has provided programming and support to the unique needs of women, LGBTQ+, students with disabilities, Asian American and Pacific Islander, Black, Latinx and Indigenous career student communities.
After earning her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University in philosophy, Smith worked in nonprofit and K-12 education in Washington, D.C. After that, she was an administrative assistant at the Center for Research on Ending Violence in the School of Social Work at Rutgers–New Brunswick. She's pursuing her master's degree at the Rutgers School of Communication and Information in communication and media studies.
Smith received the award May 3 at the 2023 Rainbow Graduation, which honors the achievements of Rutgers lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and nonbinary, queer, intersex, asexual, and other queer spectrum (LGBTQIA+) undergraduate and graduate students.
“Airelle Smith has been a dedicated partner to the Center for Social Justice Education & LGBT Communities,” said Lindsay Jeffers, assistant director of programming for the Center for Social Justice Education and LGBT Communities. “Airelle has been a consistent collaborator in enhancing our students' preparation for interviews, internships, graduate school, and their future careers.”
Jeffers added: “LGBTQIA+ students may face barriers in their careers, such as discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. We appreciate that Airelle provides inclusive guidance to our students that reflects their specific needs and identities.”
I love working with our students and am grateful for the trust our campus partners have extended to me to work within their safe spaces to do outreach and advocate for these career student communities.
assistant director for career advocacy and professional inclusion
“I'm so blessed to work with Airelle and have her on our team,” said Tamara Peters, associate director of career student communities for Career Exploration and Success. “It's been an amazing journey to watch her navigate the career communities as a graduate coordinator and then eagerly and in full force take on new ones as a full-time staff member. Her commitment to providing excellent service and resources to these communities does not go unnoticed. What she has accomplished in one year is phenomenal.”
The Dr. Zaneta Rago-Craft Award is granted to graduate students, faculty, staff, alumni or other Rutgers community members who demonstrate positive changes on campus which advance LGBTQIA+ communities. The award honors the contributions made by Zaneta Rago-Craft, who was hired by the Center for Social Justice Education & LGBT Communities in 2012 as an assistant director. Rago-Craft’s leadership brought the creation of the center’s first thematic program series dedicated to trans experiences (Trans Visibility & Empowerment Week) and the first-ever LGBTQIA+ Welcome Week.
After being promoted to director in 2014, Rago-Craft supported the creation of gender-inclusive housing options on campus, implementing a preferred name system, and improving trans-affirming health care on campus. Under Rago-Craft's leadership, the office repeatedly was recognized as among the top 30 LGBT-friendly campuses by Campus Pride.