Michele Barakett Smith grew up in a small town in Northwestern Ontario, Canada. Despite the Canadian government’s official embrace of multiculturalism in the 1970’s, she learned little about the history of the First Nations reservations that surrounded her town or the ways in which her Northern European ancestors had benefited through the oppression of the Indigenous Canadian peoples. In her early twenties, Michele’s travels in Europe and work in the advertising industry heightened her appreciation of diversity but also increased her awareness of racism and other forms of oppression. A growing interest in cultural psychology and racial justice led Michele to New York City, where she earned an Ed.M. in Counseling at Teachers College Columbia University and a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology at Fordham University. It was through her training at Teachers College that she learned about structural racism and began to understand how explicit and implicit messages about herself and others had informed her understanding of Whiteness.
Michele is now a parent at the Dalton School in New York where she was involved in the Parents Association’s Community Life and Diversity committee for several years. In addition to serving on the Pollyanna board of directors, she has been a member of the Dalton Conference: Diversity to Community Planning Committee since 2013. Michele has also attended the conference as a POD member with the Marymount School, where she worked as a psychologist and Lower Middle School diversity coordinator. As a conference attendee, she was able to witness firsthand the power of bringing different constituents together to create an action plan. Currently, Michele is spearheading the creation of a racial literacy curriculum to be disseminated through the Pollyanna website. She also works as a psychotherapist in private practice.