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Friday, April 13, 2012

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Media Contact: Bridget Lewis

Ya’Ke Smith, a UT Arlington assistant professor of art and art history, whose work has been recognized by numerous film festivals and eligible for an Academy Award nomination, has been named the Morgan Woodward Distinguished Professor in the College of Liberal Arts.

The appointment takes effect Sept. 1.

Ya'Ke Smith

“It is really an honor to have been granted this prestigious professorship so early in my academic career,” said Smith, 31, who joined the University in 2009.

Woodward established the professorship in 2010 through a gift that doubled in value through the University’s Maverick Match program. Maverick Match uses natural gas royalties to leverage new commitments.

Ronald Elsenbaumer, provost and vice president for academic affairs, said the appointment is a result of Smith’s “outstanding record of teaching, research and service at UT Arlington and comes with the full support of his colleagues in the college.”

Smith teaches film writing, directing and editing. He has received critical praise for his short films, which have screened at dozens of film festivals across the country.

Smith’s first full-length feature, “Wolf,” premiered last month at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin and is to be screened at the Dallas International Film Festival this weekend. The film explores the tough topic of sex abuse and the church.

“Writing, directing and editing… it’s hard for me to separate myself from either of these because I enjoy each one equally,” Smith said. “I love delving into socially conscious subject matter and showcasing cultures that aren’t widely seen on screen.”

Smith’s short film, “Katrina’s Son,” received critical praise last year, was shown at several film festivals including Cannes and was a contender in the Film Shorts category of the 2012 Oscars.  

Beth Wright, dean of the College of Liberal Arts, said the University is delighted with Smith’s selection as the first Morgan Woodward Distinguished Professor.

“His films are works of exceptional talent, intelligence and compassion,” she said. “The University is fortunate to have as a faculty member such a brilliant creator and inspiring teacher.”    

Woodward, a longtime supporter of the University, grew up in Arlington. He graduated from North Texas Agricultural College (now UT Arlington) in 1948 and was named a Distinguished Alumnus in 1969. During his long acting career, he co-starred in more than 250 movies and television shows, including Dallas, Logan’s Run and Gunsmoke

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