Dean of CAS to step down

Smart leaves a legacy of accomplishments focused on improving student experience

By on September 3, 2019

Robert Smart, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, is stepping down and leaving a big pair of shoes to fill.

In an email sent by Interim Provost Jennifer Brown on Aug. 29, she announced that Smart would be returning to his position as full-time faculty in the department of English until his retirement in 2021.

Smart has been teaching for 47 years and has spent the last 20 at Quinnipiac, first as the chair of the English department before becoming dean of CAS in 2014. In these last six years specifically, Smart has been focused on enhancing the student experience.

Garret Reich | The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The new advising center in CAS is one of Smart’s most recent accomplishments.

“What if we could say to students, don’t pick a major because you think it’ll give you a job, because that job might not be there by the time you graduate? Stick with where your passions are,” Smart said.

Jeremy Gustafson, Student Government Association (SGA) liberal arts senator, has worked with Smart on several initiatives, including a project to add more bulletin boards to CAS1.

“I am sad to see him go,” Gustafson said. “He loves to meet students and understand their college life and how they’re doing. He is also passionate about other things, like the Student Center, which he was a key component in creating.”

Smart’s theory is that the focal point in any educational institution is the students. Four years ago, Smart said he used to have students outside his door before graduation, panicked that they weren’t prepared for the work life outside of Quinnipiac.

“I need every single graduate from here to feel absolutely fearless,” Smart said. “Whenever I would talk to the students outside that door, they were afraid. It was clear that they didn’t feel somehow well enough prepared for the world they were entering. I thought to myself, that’s not right.”

When Smart first became dean, he got to work on his vision for CAS so that students felt prepared, both inside and outside of the classroom. Wesley Renfro, the associate dean of the college of arts and sciences, said this legacy is impressive.

“I think he will be remembered for being a tireless and effective advocate for CAS,” Renfro said. “Examples of his success include the 20 new full-time faculty that have joined CAS, the CAS 360 advising model, and the new Advising Commons in CAS1.”

This 360 model promotes offered resources for students to take their major and apply it to a career, upon graduation.

Smart has also been a spearhead of interdisciplinary programs, Renfro said, such as the environmental studies/science program. On top of this, he has revolutionized the morale in CAS, despite the uncertainty he inherited in 2014.

“He assumed the deanship during a difficult and uncertain time and his capable and calm stewardship allowed faculty and staff to focus on their first priority: students and their education,” Renfro said. “All of these things and countless others have helped improve CAS and make it a place where faculty and staff can work to their fullest potential which helps students learn and thrive.”

Part of Smart’s iconic stature is his office. When students walk in, they will find an open door, pictures of his grandkids taped onto his computer and a pin on his jacket that reads “I was first in my family to go to college.” Even more infamous is the bowl of candy on his desk.

“One of my favorite things about him and his personalityis that he has a whole bowl of candy in his office, just to get students to come in and talk to him,” Gufstason said.

Smart’s goals for the College of Arts and Sciences still have momentum. In the development stages of the strategic plan, President Judy Olian asked the deans at Quinnipiac to submit a list of priorities for the individual colleges.

Part of Smart’s initiative was to build a greenhouse near the Albert Schweitzer Institute, both for students and faculty to use. One of the new professors Smart hired, Sarah Lawson, is an ecologist who will use the greenhouse in classes.

“Her speciality is pollinators,” Smart said. “She wants to use the greenhouse to teach students about the variety of pollinators in the area, how to preserve them. A program like that brings with it possibilities for student research.”

Renfro believes the momentum Smart has created will be maintained through the hiring of the succeeding dean.

“We should continue the work that Dean Smart started including supporting and expanding 360 advising, further developing our interdisciplinary offerings, and making meaningful contributions to the UC–all while serving our majors and minors, Renfro said.”

Beyond Smart’s goals and accomplishments, Renfro said the legacy he is most well known for is his dedication to students.

“Bob Smart is smart, very hard-working, he has a very clear vision, and he is kind,” Renfro added. “I think that last part merits special attention. He’s profoundly humane and treats everyone, and I mean everyone, with respect. This has served every part of CAS and QU well. He will be missed.”

Comments

About Garret Reich