Elizabeth F. Smith Reappointed Arts and Sciences Dean

News subtitle

Smith has been appointed to a second five-year term.

Elizabeth F. Smith
Professor Elizabeth F. Smith, a cell biologist, has served as dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences since July 1, 2017. (Photo by Robert Gill)

Elizabeth F. Smith, the Paul M. Dauten Jr. Professor of Biological Sciences, has been appointed to a second five-year term as dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, President Philip J. Hanlon ’77 and Interim Provost David Kotz ’86 announced today.

“Elizabeth is a strong proponent of academic excellence at Dartmouth,” says President Hanlon. “Her dedication to the personal growth and intellectual experiences of our students and her efforts to promote and accelerate the creation of new knowledge by our faculty have been formidable.”

Before becoming dean, Smith, a cell biologist, spent two years as associate dean of the sciences in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and before that was chair of the Department of Biological Sciences for three years.

Smith came to Dartmouth in 1998 as an assistant professor. She was promoted to full professor in 2010 and served as chair of biological sciences for three years, beginning in 2012. She has served on a number of committees and has worked across Dartmouth’s schools. She was a member of the Graduate and Advanced Studies Task Force that led to the creation of the Guarini School of Graduate and Advanced Studies; co-chaired the Science Strategy Working Group, which developed a plan to guide future investment in STEM fields across campus; and co-chaired the Enrollment Expansion Task Force. In 2014, she received the Dauten endowed professorship. She has received numerous external honors and fellowships, including being chosen as a K.R. Porter Fellow by the Porter Endowment for Cell Biology in 2008.

Smith received her bachelor’s degree in biology with honors from Agnes Scott College and her PhD in cell and developmental biology from Emory University. Before coming to Dartmouth, she spent six years at the University of Minnesota, where she received a prestigious American Cancer Society fellowship for her postdoctoral work in genetics and cell biology.

As the chief academic officer of arts and sciences, Smith leads 40 academic departments and programs and more than 600 faculty members who primarily teach Dartmouth’s undergraduates and conduct research in their fields. In addition, as dean she shapes and communicates the mission of the faculty and is responsible for securing the resources necessary to carry out that mission.

In her second term, Smith says her efforts will be dedicated to elevating the profile and impact of the arts and sciences at Dartmouth; exploring ways to organize and leverage the strengths of the faculty, undergraduate students, and staff to effectively meet the needs and challenges of a rapidly changing global environment; and continuing to recruit, retain, and support a world-class faculty.

“We need to take a comprehensive look at both the current organizational structure and budget model for the arts and sciences in the context of the College’s holistic approach to education,” she says, “and determine whether they still serve us well in meeting our core mission, not just for today but for the Dartmouth of the future.”

Kotz says Smith is an influential leader and a strong advocate for the arts and sciences faculty.

“Elizabeth has a deep commitment to teaching and research and is a champion of Dartmouth’s teacher-scholar model,” he says. “She has had a steady hand on the tiller throughout the past five years and we are fortunate to have her continuing leadership.”

Smith says that among the many highlights of her first term, she’s especially proud of the resilience and resourcefulness demonstrated by the faculty and instructional staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Almost every course we had planned to teach last spring was transformed into remote learning in two weeks. That pivot was unprecedented,” she says, “but faculty members were committed to maintaining instruction for our students, and in typical Dartmouth fashion, they took what they learned in that crisis and have used it to enhance their courses.”

As dean, Smith increased the arts and sciences’ commitment (PDF) to faculty development, diversity, and inclusion, building on the blueprint for inclusive excellence developed while associate dean, and adding a senior adviser’s position to her staff to help recruit and retain diverse faculty and provide a supportive environment in which scholars can flourish.

“A diverse intellectual community is critical to an exceptional education, scholarly innovation, and human creativity,” she says. “I’m looking forward to continuing that work to establish policies, processes, and training that help all faculty and every student feel welcome and empowered to achieve their greatest academic potential.”

During her tenure, Smith championed a wide range of collaborative projects designed to strengthen the arts and sciences, including a new sexual misconduct policy and process; a guide and review process for associate deans; new guidance for department chairs; the Consortium on Race, Migration and Sexuality; strategic budgeting; and improvements designed to bring more transparency to the tenure process.

Three longstanding academic programs—environmental studies, linguistics, and Native American studies—became departments during Smith’s deanship, at the same time as the former education department became an administrative unit with the education scholarship distributed to departments with shared interests. 

In partnership with the Advancement division, she has provided support and leadership for the renovation of Dartmouth Hall, Anonymous Hall, Thornton Hall, and Reed Hall. She also helped secure substantial funding for the E.E. Just Program and for the arts and humanities.

Smith says she will continue to pursue her longstanding interest in the cultivation of respectful discourse and civic engagement in society, advocating for the development of curricular and co-curricular offerings that foster constructive dialogue on campus.

“There is an urgent need to bring people of opposing views and passionate beliefs together to engage in respectful, thoughtful, and evidence-based dialogue,” she says. “Preparing our students to effectively engage with difference should be one of the most important goals of every great academic institution. In these tumultuous times, as a leader in the liberal arts tradition, Dartmouth is well-positioned to make a significant impact.”

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