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Swarthmore College Inaugurates First African American President

By Cherri Gregg

SWARTHMORE, Pa. (CBS) - Swarthmore College is celebrating the installation of its first African American president.

"It's been very moving to me to know that my appointment to this position has meant so much to the community," says Valerie Smith. She was installed on Saturday as the 15th President of Swarthmore.

A self-proclaimed "bookish explorer," Smith was born and raised in Brooklyn by educator parents. The Bates College grad has spent her entire career in academia, with years in administration at UCLA and then Princeton, and was unanimously selected to head Swarthmore in February. Now she's formulating her plan.

"I have a multifaceted vision for Swarthmore at this point," says Smith.

She says her top priorities will be recruiting a diverse student body and ensuring their success, investing in curriculum, faculty and facilities, and building relationships with other area institutions. The college has had its issues with diversity with the number of African American students hovering around five percent.

"I think the biggest challenge will be where to put the emphasis first," Smith says.

In the meantime, she'll celebrate with music, performances and fireworks as part of the college's inauguration festivities. She says her parents will be there, watching their daughter blaze trails.

"They're very proud and very happy," she adds.

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