Tracy K. Smith
MFA ’97, Columbia University; Berlind Professor of the Humanities, Chair of the Lewis Center for the Arts, Princeton University; 22nd poet laureate of the United States
Princeton, New Jersey
A two-term U.S. poet laureate, Tracy K. Smith strives to use the power of poetry to bridge social divides and help people connect to their shared humanity.
Smith has received numerous awards for her work, including a Pulitzer Prize, Harvard Arts Medal, and Columbia University Medal for Excellence. She is a professor and chair of the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University and an associate editor of Callallo, a literary and cultural journal of the African diaspora. She also hosts The Slowdown poetry podcast and serves on the boards of the National Poetry Series and Poets & Writers.
Smith discovered her passion for poetry as a student at Harvard College, where she studied with poets Lucie Brock-Broido, Seamus Heaney, and Henri Cole. She also met a community of young writers through the Harvard Crimson and the Dark Room Collective, which hosted a reading series for writers of color.
In 2019, Smith was elected by her 25th reunion classmates to serve as chief marshal at Commencement.
"Harvard made me the person I am today, and I am eager to serve the institution in its mission. Just as my students at Princeton will go on to be drivers of opportunity and change in their professional fields, Harvard graduates will be a guiding presence in the shaping of our shared national culture. It has perhaps never been more important that we prioritize the values of inclusion, compassion, and collaborative problem-solving, along with explicit commitments to eradicating bias and discrimination across contexts."