- Left Indiana University in 1988 to work for Los Angeles mayor Tom Bradley, before finishing his degree in 2003.
- Was the presenter of America I Am: The African American Imprint, a traveling museum exhibition.
- Founder of The Tavis Smiley Foundation, which provides leadership training and development for American children.
- Received the Du Bois Medal from Harvard University.
- Received an honorary doctorate degree from Indiana University.