Former School of Government Dean Receives Holshouser Award

Mike Smith ’78 (JD) (Photo: Ray Black III)

This article was updated March 20, 2024.

Mike Smith ’78 (JD), dean emeritus of the School of Government, has been given the 2023 Gov. James E. Holshouser Jr. Award for Excellence in Public Service.

Smith was presented the award by the UNC Board of Governors. Established in 2007, the award recognizes faculty members who have exemplified extraordinary public service and is named after Holshouser, who served from 1973 to 1977 and was the first Republican candidate to be elected N.C. governor since 1896.

Smith joined the faculty of what was then the Institute of Government in 1978 and became director in 1992. He was named dean when the institute became the School of Government in 2001 and served until 2023. When he stepped down, Smith was the longest-serving dean in UNC history. He also served as vice chancellor for public service and engagement from 2006 to 2008. Smith was awarded the General Alumni Association’s Faculty Service Award in 2017.

“By bringing together faculty and leaders from across our state, country and world, he has made significant advancement in our understanding of good governance and best practices at the state and local level,” former Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz told University Communications about Smith.

As dean, Smith guided the school to add programs in public technology, leadership and governance, environmental finance, development finance, criminal justice and more. In 2013, the School of Government launched an online degree for its master of public administration program.

Smith taught researching and consulting in the fields of civil liability of public officials and legal aspects of corrections, both locally and statewide. He helped launch the Carolina Across 100 Initiative, which brings University  services  to North Carolinians in need, and also  played a crucial role in relaunching the Tar Heel Bus Tour in 2022.

“Mike is a model of selfless, nonpartisan public service,” UNC System President Peter Hans ’91 said when Smith was given the award.  “He understands on a bone-deep level that this University belongs to all North Carolinians and we must use our research and scholarship to benefit citizens.”

The Board of Governors also gave a Holshouser Award to Kuldeep Rawat, the Thorpe Endowed Professor and Dean of the School of Science, Aviation, Health, and Technology at Elizabeth City State University.

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