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Public Service Advocate Named Vice Chancellor for Engagement

Michael R. Smith ’78 (JD), dean of UNC’s School of Government and a force behind some of the University’s most significant public outreach efforts in recent years, has been tapped to take on a new role as an advocate and facilitator for greater campuswide engagement with North Carolina.

In addition to his current duties, Smith will become UNC’s vice chancellor for engagement, effective Nov. 1. Smith has been dean of the School of Government since 2001, when it was created. He came to Carolina to attend law school in 1975 and remained for a career at one of the University’s most visible symbols of public service – the Institute of Government, now celebrating its 75th anniversary. He previously headed the institute, which is now a part of the School of Government.

“Mike Smith has been among the great champions on this campus for doing more with engagement over the past several years,” Chancellor James Moeser said. “He has worked tirelessly and with passion. He will help us define the even deeper level of engagement that I know we are capable of achieving.”

Moeser said the nearly completed final report of the Chancellor’s Task Force on Engagement with North Carolina, which focuses on new steps the University can take to serve the state in K-12 education, health care and economic development, made the timing of Smith’s appointment especially appropriate.

“The task force’s report provides us with great opportunities to chart an even bolder course for engagement,” Moeser said. “That bold course requires senior leadership – someone who gets up every day thinking about how this University can do an even better job of serving this state.”

Before becoming head of the Institute of Government in 1992, Smith was a professor of public law and government there for 14 years. As a faculty member, he wrote, taught and consulted extensively in two fields: civil liability of public officials and legal aspects of corrections.

As dean, he has expanded the school’s capacity to help public officials in public management, finance and administration but without reducing the traditional strengths in public law. Key focus areas have included facilitating the economic competitiveness of North Carolina communities, helping governments improve management of information technology and launching a program to improve the civic education of the state’s young people.

Smith is credited with improving faculty diversity and broadening the school’s financial base through fundraising and helping secure support for a legislative appropriation to expand and renovate the Knapp Building, which was re-dedicated as the Knapp-Sanders Building in 2004. He also led the transition of the master of public administration degree program from the department of political science to the School of Government in 1997.

In 1999, Smith received the C. Knox Massey Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes “unusual, meritorious or superior contributions” by University employees. He co-chaired the Public Service Roundtable, a volunteer group of faculty, staff and students dedicated to promoting public service.

Initiatives spawned by that group’s work include the Tar Heel Bus Tour, which celebrates its 10th anniversary next spring and takes faculty new to the University and North Carolina across the state; and the Carolina Center for Public Service, which engages and supports the campus community in meeting the needs of the state and promotes scholarship and service. Lynn Blanchard ’85 (MPH, ’89 PhD), center director, will report to Smith, and they will work closely to continue to expand and extend the center’s service to North Carolina.

Smith’s Massey Award citation stressed Smith’s keen interest in advancing the campuswide mission of public service. “His method has been to be a thought-provoker, question-asker, perceptive listener, drawer-out of others’ ideas, and stimulator of aspiration in identifying needs among North Carolina’s many publics that the university’s parts and its whole could supply,” the citation said.

Smith serves on a range of boards, commissions and committees inside and outside the University. A native of Cassopolis, Mich., he earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in 1975.


Related coverage is available online:

  • A Passion for Service  – Essay for the Carolina Alumni Review by Michael R. Smith ’78 (JD), then a professor and director of the Institute of Government. Smith explores Carolina’s legacy of public service to the state of North Carolina and asks: Is the University as committed today to improving North Carolina as it was in Edward Kidder Graham’s era?
    From the September/October 2001 issue of the Carolina Alumni Review, available online to GAA members.

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