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Lighting the Torch
Shea Kidd Houze, assistant vice chancellor for student life and dean of students, talks with visitors during the Lighting the Torch ceremony in the Student Union on January 08, 2019. Photo by Steven Bridges

In honor of Black History Month, the Southeastern Conference (SEC) recently highlighted 14 noteworthy African American leaders who “embody the spirit and drive the month represents.” Assistant Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students Shea Kidd Houze was selected for her many years of experience in higher education and her work in compassionate care and student engagement.

The honorees were from varying disciplines including student affairs, academics, enrollment, and athletics.

“Daily, I navigate multiple marginalized identities, and it speaks volumes to be a part of a conference that recognizes our contributions and nuanced challenges,” Kidd Houze said. “So much of my job focuses on cultivating spaces where students feel they matter and belong, and this was one of those moments where I got to feel that, too.”

Originally from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Kidd Houze received a Bachelor of Arts in speech communication from the University of Southern Mississippi, a Master of Education in college student affairs administration from the University of Georgia, and a PhD in educational research from the University of Memphis, where her scholarship focused on racial identity development in African American college students. She began her role as assistant vice chancellor and dean of students at UT in January of 2018.

Among her many responsibilities, Kidd Houze provides oversight to eight departments within the Division of Student Life and guides the “Vol Is a Verb” campaign, which encourages campus community members to embrace their personal stories while celebrating diversity. The campaign uplifts individuality and reinforces a shared identity as Volunteers.

Kidd Houze is the granddaughter of Lillian Louie, secretary to civil rights activist Medgar Evers, who served as the first state field secretary of the NAACP in Mississippi until his assassination in 1963. Evers was instrumental in the fight against racial injustice, organizing voter registration efforts and investigating crimes perpetrated against blacks. Kidd Houze noted that receiving this honor during Black History Month was a special moment.

“Black History Month elevates people and stories who were overlooked once upon a time in our history and reminds me of those who endured unspeakable pain in pursuit of better days for themselves and all who would follow,” said Kidd Houze. “This month helps me pause to think about this journey we’re on and how far we’ve progressed since Granni’s days with Medgar. It also helps me lean into the work we still need to do today and to consider ways I can be a part of solutions in the future.”

Carrying the lessons learned from her grandmother into her work, Kidd Houze serves as a vital and visible representation on campus of what black students can achieve and as an advocate for every students’ right to feel at home on Rocky Top.

CONTACT:

Maddie Stephens (865-974-3993, msteph44@utk.edu)