May 8, 2024

ASL is Proud to Announce Our Class of 2024 Valedictorian, Shawn Smith

ASL is Proud to Announce Our Class of 2024 Valedictorian, Shawn Smith

Congratulations on your incredible achievement and contribution to the world.

Shawn Smith is a distinguished leader whose expertise in operational management and strategic planning has profoundly impacted the global nonprofit sector. Currently holding the position of Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Global Impact Initiative in Austin, Texas, Shawn has been instrumental since July 2020 in fostering educational programming in collaboration with the U.S. State Department, addressing professional nonprofit skills readiness, and championing diversity, equity, and inclusion for college students in Saudi Arabia. These programs are integral to the advancement of Saudi Vision 2030 and the UN Social Development Goals, reaching thousands of students across the Kingdom and neighboring countries.

Through his work with the Global Impact Initiative, he serves as a collaborator for the White House Summit for Democracy, which has been pivotal in promoting equitable solutions for refugee resettlement on both national and international platforms. Under his leadership, the annual operating budget of his organization saw a substantial increase of around $2 million in the fiscal year 2023 alone. He leads a robust and growing team of approximately 15 full-time staff, overseeing operations that span funding acquisition, program operations, budget management, and compliance.

Parallel to his role at Global Impact Initiative, Shawn also serves as the Director of Strategic Planning for the Alhambra US Chamber, where he has been since October 2020. In this capacity, he liaises with foreign ministries of education to streamline regulatory processes for international students and manages strategic initiatives across the organization’s business lines. His contributions include fostering partnerships with educational institutions, businesses, and government agencies, all while ensuring the organizational mission and values of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging are at the forefront.

Prior to these roles, Shawn provided exceptional service as an Employee Relations Specialist at Landry’s Inc. from September 2018 to October 2020, where he supported over 125 business units, spread across North America, with employee relations and strategic DEIB initiatives. His tenure as an Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist at the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs from June 2017 to September 2018 saw him conduct EEO counseling and resolve allegations of discrimination within the agency. Before this, he honed his skills in law enforcement as a Probation and Parole Officer II and Serious Risk Group Intelligence Officer for the State of North Carolina, from April 2015 to May 2017, where he managed offender cases and rehabilitation efforts.

Shawn’s academic journey is equally impressive. He is a Juris Doctor candidate at the Appalachian School of Law, where he will be graduating as valedictorian in May 2024. His educational background is complemented by a Master’s degree in Business Administration with a concentration in Human Resource Management from Louisiana State University – Shreveport, and dual bachelor’s degrees in Criminal Justice and Psychology from Pfeiffer University, graduating with honors.

An educator at heart, Shawn has shared his knowledge as a Teaching Assistant at the Appalachian School of Law and as an Instructor for several courses designed to equip students with the skills necessary for the professional environment, with a particular emphasis on Saudi Arabia’s nonprofit sector. His mentoring extends to his work at the law school and within Global Impact Initiative, where he provides guidance and support to students navigating the complexities of their academic and professional journeys.

Shawn’s contributions to academia are also noteworthy, serving as Managing Editor for the Appalachian Journal of Law and as an author of several insightful papers on the taxation of tax- exempt entities and digital currency regulations. His thought leadership has been recognized through various awards and has been sought after in media interviews, reflecting his influence and commitment to shaping a just and equitable society.

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