STAFF KUDOS: Nikita Ashford-Ashworth named Maxine Smith Fellow

Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR) this past fall named Nikita Ashford-Ashworth, Director of Advising and Academic Support at Southwest, a 2017-2018 Maxine Smith Fellow.  Southwest President Dr. Tracy D. Hall nominated Ashford-Ashworth. “Ms. Ashford-Ashworth, through her exceptional leadership in Student Development, is helping Southwest meet its mission of cultivating student success,” Dr. Hall said.  “She is a passionate student advocate that Southwest students can count on to mentor and advise them as they persist to their goals.”

Nikita Ashford-Ashworth

Ashford-Ashworth is overjoyed to be accepted into the program on her third try.  “I am grateful Dr. Hall saw enough potential in me to push my name forward.”

The Maxine Smith Fellows Program identifies future senior-level leaders, pairs them with mentors and provides them with opportunities to develop important leadership competencies. The ideal candidate is an exemplary employee who understands and is engaged in work that has a wide impact on the institution. The participant also must have obtained a master’s degree or higher. Only individuals nominated by the president of the institution are considered for acceptance.


The goals of the program are to enhance the Fellows’ academic and professional credentials, provide them opportunities to observe and participate in decision making and policy development at the institution, senior administrative and governing board levels; and increase the number of qualified applicants from underrepresented groups for senior level administrative positions at TBR institutions.

Vice President for Student Affairs Jacqueline Faulkner says Ashford-Ashworth is a consummate professional and continually goes above and beyond the traditional expectations of her roles. “She can always be called upon and counted on to help plan and facilitate special projects and activities, such as commencement, and is highly respected throughout the college, which lends itself to great cross-disciplinary collaboration.”

Executive Director of Retention and Graduation Dr. Jacqueline Taylor says Ashford-Ashworth is an excellent selection for the fellowship.  “I have witnessed her resilience, perseverance and passion to serve students well,” she said. “This passion has allowed her to exhibit commendable leadership in the community college sphere, especially within the TBR System.”  Taylor predicts a bright future for Ashford-Ashworth. “I am excited for her and for her future in higher education as a change agent and contributor to enhancing the educational environment for those students who desire and pursue an affordable, quality higher education in Tennessee.”

Ashford-Ashworth currently is enjoying learning critical strategy from a Fellow mentor and hopes the experience will propel her to the next level in her career.  “Each road trip brings excitement because I get to meet professionals from across the state,” she said. “The fellowship is allowing me to build a net—not a network—of people I can trust to give me honest feedback.”