Jen Smith Named College of Arts & Sciences Dean
Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton has announced a senior leadership appointment at Washington University in St. Louis — the dean of the College of Arts & Sciences — to fill one of two roles held by James E. McLeod before his death Sept. 6.
Jennifer R. Smith, PhD, associate professor of earth and planetary sciences and of environmental studies, both in Arts & Sciences, has been named dean of the College of Arts & Sciences.
Smith, a Clayton resident, whose appointment is effective July 1, will become a member of WUSTL’s University Council, which comprises the chief administrative officers and deans of the university.
“In drawing Stahl and Smith to our leadership team we have a combination of talented, experienced leaders who will build on the foundation built by Jim McLeod,” Wrighton says. “Continuing to strengthen the student experience in every way is our objective, and I am very pleased to be able to work with Sharon Stahl and Jennifer Smith in the era ahead.”
Smith to lead largest undergraduate school
Gary S. Wihl, PhD, dean of the faculty of Arts & Sciences and the Hortense and Tobias Lewin Distinguished Professor in the Humanities, says that Smith has the “courage, vision and energy” to lead WUSTL’s largest undergraduate school with 4,000 students.
“Like Jim McLeod, she sees potential in every one of our students and will guide the college in the coming years to bring out the best in our undergraduates.
“She is also a highly accomplished member of our faculty, who has won the esteem and admiration of her colleagues. Jen’s appointment will generate excitement and interest, particularly as she becomes better-known to our graduates, parents and friends.”
Wihl, who appointed an eight-member search committee last November to identify internal candidates for the position that reports to him, acknowledged the work of the committee, which was chaired by Wolfram M. Schmidgen, PhD, associate professor of English in Arts & Sciences.
“Wolfram Schmidgen and the members of his search committee did an outstanding job in identifying Jen as a candidate and recruiting her for this appointment,” Wihl says. “Jen and Wolfram represent the emergence of the next generation of leaders who are stepping forward to continue to build Washington University as one of the nation’s leading institutions of higher education.”
Continuing McLeod’s legacy
Smith has served on more than 20 department and university committees since joining the WUSTL faculty in 2002 as an assistant professor of earth and planetary sciences. She was promoted to associate professor in 2009.
“I am deeply honored by the opportunity to continue the formidable legacy left by Jim McLeod,” Smith says. “The potential of our undergraduates to rise to the myriad challenges presented by today’s society gives me great hope, and I am excited to work with the faculty and staff of Arts & Sciences to help fully develop that potential.”
As dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, Smith will be responsible for the university’s liberal arts curriculum as well as every phase of student life, from admission through graduation and onward to postgraduate success.
Among other responsibilities, she will lead the undergraduate four-year advising program with its 17 deans in the college and six in other schools; manage an annual budget of more than $3 million; work with the Undergraduate Council to address student governance issues; and work with the offices of the Dean of Students, Campus Life, Residential Life, the First Year Center, and other academic support units that deal with the undergraduate experience.
She came to WUSTL after a yearlong lectureship appointment in Harvard University’s Department of Anthropology.
She earned a bachelor’s degree in earth and planetary sciences, magna cum laude, from Harvard College in 1996 and a master’s of science in geology in 1998 and a PhD in earth and environmental science in 2001, both from the University of Pennsylvania.
Her research interests include understanding the interaction between humans and their environment in the archaeological record by examining how natural climatic and environmental changes affected the resources available to people through time, as well as how changes in population and technology have affected the amount and nature of human impact on the natural environment.
Much of her research uses tools from sedimentology, geomorphology and geochemistry to reconstruct the landscapes and environments occupied by prehistoric people.
Smith, who has been cited as a contributing author on more than 100 published articles and abstracts, has done field work in Belize, Axel Heiberg Island (a Canadian island), Egypt, Croatia, Sudan, Morocco, Iraq, Syria, Dubai, Ethiopia, Greece and Bolivia.
‘Taken the initiative to get to know students’
A native of Trumbull, Conn., Smith said in a 2010 Washington People Record profile that she learned how to face challenges from her father, a pipefitter, and how to make a difference in her students’ lives from her mother, a former parochial school teacher.
Smith is known for her commitment to students, both undergraduate and graduate, through her supportive and encouraging teaching and advising. She also is known for being generous with her time, energy and ideas.
A prolific academic adviser, she has advised more than 70 students to their degree, including three PhD students, two master of science students and 66 bachelor degree students.
She currently is advising a PhD and a master’s degree student and 56 bachelor degree students.
The recipient of a Faculty Mentor award from the Graduate Student Senate in 2005, she has also acted as a mentor to undergraduates pursuing research on climate change through the Office of Undergraduate Research.
In 2010-11, Smith participated in the Faculty Associates Program, designed to provide opportunities for significant faculty-student interaction outside of the classroom setting. As a faculty associate, she engaged with a resident adviser and a floor of some 50 first-year students living in Danforth House on the South 40.
“From a student perspective, we are interested in having a new dean of the college who will carry on Dean McLeod’s legacy and his invested interest in knowing each student ‘by name and story.’ In her time at Washington University thus far, Professor Smith has taken the initiative to get to know students both inside and outside the classroom, whether as a four-year adviser or faculty associate,” says senior Ashley D. Brosius, a student representative to WUSTL’s Board of Trustees who served on the dean search committee.
“From my conversations with Professor Smith, she seems deeply committed to the student experience and attuned to our academic needs. I think as dean she will importantly be able to relate to students in both the humanities and the sciences and prioritize our interests as the College of Arts & Sciences moves forward,” says Brosius, a triple major in anthropology, political science, and women, gender, and sexuality studies, all in Arts & Sciences.
Smith’s service to the university includes serving on the college’s Academic Planning Committee and the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences’ committees on strategic planning and curriculum.
She has been director of undergraduate studies for the department since 2003. Previous work includes serving on the university’s Committee on Retention of Women in STEM fields in 2009-10 and the Environmental Studies Executive Committee from 2008-10.
A member of the Society for American Archaeology (SAA), she was co-chair from 2008-09 of the society’s Geoarchaeology Interest Group aimed at, among other activities, assisting in educating future geoarchaeologists.
From 2003-09, she was newsletter editor for SAA and the Geological Society of America Geoarchaeology.