New Dean of Students Brings Collaborative Track Record to 'Dream Job'
Sept. 21, 2016
Dr. Amanda Smith
Every time she looks out her office window from the Student Services Building, the surge of students this fall reminds Dr. Amanda Smith of her ever-increasing responsibilities: to meet the needs of a burgeoning student population at The University of Texas at Dallas.
Smith has been appointed associate vice president for Student Affairs and dean of students, a role she filled last year on an interim basis. She succeeds Dr. Gene Fitch, who became vice president for Student Affairs when Dr. Darlene Rachavong retired in June 2015.
Fitch said Smith’s institutional knowledge and the partnerships she has established will help the division meet the needs of UT Dallas students.
“Amanda’s greatest asset is her ability to build an inclusive community for our students. I am confident that she will be intentional at engaging and interacting with our students in order to provide the quality programs and services they expect,” Fitch said.
While it might give some pause to see thousands of new students wind their way to the Student Union or McDermott Library, or weave a line to food trucks at lunchtime, Smith is confident her staff can keep pace with the growth in enrollment, which is expected to top 26,600 this fall.
“We continue to adapt and do things differently,” Smith said. “The one thing I’m most proud of in Student Affairs is our ability to rise to that challenge. Our services are never compromised.”
Smith has a track record of working collaboratively with various offices within Student Affairs and across campus. She has done the job long enough to know how to streamline processes.
In her new role, Smith provides management and supervision to more than 100 staff in the Dean of Students Office, which includes various initiatives, such as Health and Wellness, Student Engagement, Student Transition and the Office of Community Standards and Conduct.
In addition, she is a member of the Student Affairs’ crisis and critical incident management, including the Behavior Assessment and Intervention Team (BAIT).
“We continue to adapt and do things differently. The one thing I’m most proud of in Student Affairs is our ability to rise to that challenge. Our services are never compromised.”
Smith’s career path took an unexpected turn when, as a kinesiology student at the University of North Texas, she suffered a knee injury and needed surgery. Her goals shifted from dance and physical education to teaching and higher education administration. She went on to earn a master’s degree from Abilene Christian University and a doctorate in higher education administration from Texas Tech University.
Smith began her career at UT Dallas as health education coordinator in 2007. By 2013 she had become director of the Student Wellness Center, which seeks to promote student health and prevention programs.
Now, having reached her “dream job,” Smith says she has no plans to leave UT Dallas — ever.
“I plan to retire here, there’s no doubt in my mind,” Smith said. “Every day when I get to my office, I feel like I’m coming home. We have a large university with a small campus feel. I don’t know that you’d find that everywhere.”
Student Affairs will be able to better accommodate more students with some much-needed office and meeting space when the Student Services Building Addition opens this year. The expansion will house the Center for Students in Recovery, the Veteran Services Center, the vice president’s suite and Student Programs. It will also serve as an extension of the Student Union, including a gaming wall and an auditorium.
Smith also is hiring a director of Community Standards and Conduct, a new position that will help with the judicial process for student discipline cases, and is collaborating on plans for a new Social Justice and Inclusion Institution, a joint effort of Student Affairs and the Multicultural Center, the Galerstein Women’s Center, Student AccessAbility and Student Leadership Programs.
“We want to train students to help shape their culture, to look at specific populations and their needs, and then to help inform the public. I think that’s so important today,” Smith said.
Despite the challenges of a growing university, Smith’s passion for the job stems from the ones she serves.
“Hands down, it’s the students — their diversity and their academically driven mindset, yet they still have a desire to become well-rounded. They take full advantage of our programs, whether it’s participating in sports or wellness activities, so that they will end up not just with an academic degree but as a contributing member of society,” Smith said.