Vaughn Smith, a program manager in the Diversity and Career Impact program within ATF’s Human Resources and Professional Development Branch, views his job as expanding on his family’s legacy. Growing up in New Orleans, Smith gained an appreciation for the importance of diversity and inclusion from his father, who shared stories about his role as a civil rights activist in the Crescent City as part of the larger Civil Rights Movement. Smith sees his own job with ATF as a way of carrying the baton for the next generation.
As a young man, Smith decided to study psychology at Dillard University, one of three historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in New Orleans. While at Dillard, Smith heard about ATF from a friend’s father, a special agent and recruiter based in the New Orleans Field Division. Smith was intrigued, but wanted to continue pursuing his education. After receiving his undergraduate degree in rehabilitation counseling, he applied for the position of an industry operations investigator (IOI) in 2005. While completing the multi-year hiring process, Smith went on to attend Jackson State University in Mississippi, another HBCU. His graduate courses focused on identifying reasonable accommodations to ensure people with disabilities could effectively do their jobs.
Smith completed his degree and finally joined ATF as an IOI in 2008. As an IOI, Smith’s role was to ensure firearms did not fall into the hands of the traffickers and violent offenders who wreak havoc on communities across the nation. Smith cared deeply about the mission of ATF and recommended the agency and career to his twin brother, Derek, who worked as a recruiter for Xavier University—another HBCU in New Orleans. As a result, his brother now works for ATF as an IOI with the Los Angeles Field Division.
One defining life moment for Smith occurred on Oct. 1, 2017, in Las Vegas. Smith’s brother-in-law was attending the Route 91 Festival when a shooter opened fire. To this day, Smith remembers the horror in his brother-in-law’s voice over the phone as he ran from the scene of the shooting. His brother-in-law made it out alive, but 59 people were killed and more than 850 injured that night. This tragedy helped Smith reaffirm his purpose as an IOI with ATF.
Smith worked as both an IOI and a diversity and career impact program coordinator with the Phoenix Field Division for two more years. He loved meeting with students at local high schools and colleges to share his passion for his work and its impact on the community.
Smith continues this mission for ATF with HRPD, by recruiting diverse candidates dedicated to reducing violent crime in neighborhoods. He believes that diversity is more than just about race; it includes age, gender, sexual orientation, experience, disability, thought, ethnicity and religion. All these facets of diversity make communities and organizations stronger.
Smith is currently developing the ATF framework that will foster recruitment collaborations with HBCUs, a cause inspired by his brother Derek. He and his brother agree that actively volunteering and partnering from within a community is more fruitful than simply attending career fairs; any agency interested in diversifying their workforce needs to act as an ally of the community, not just an employer. Smith believes that these diversity and inclusion partnerships will result in a more diverse and inclusive workforce supporting ATF’s mission and its future.