School of Government Dean Mike Smith to step down in December

During his tenure, Mike Smith has championed the school’s values of neutrality, nonadvocacy and responsiveness in its mission to improve state and local government for North Carolinians.

Smith Smith standing by bookshelves.
(Photo by Ray Black III)

Dear Carolina Community,

We are writing to share that Mike Smith has decided to step down as dean of the School of Government in December after more than three decades at the helm. Mike is one of the longest-serving deans in Carolina’s modern history and has served on the faculty since 1978.

Mike first came to Carolina to attend the School of Law in 1975 and has remained here for a career at one of the University’s most visible symbols of public service: the Institute of Government, which through his initiative and leadership became the School of Government in 2001. During his tenure, Mike has championed the school’s values of neutrality, nonadvocacy and responsiveness in its mission to improve state and local government for North Carolinians. Over the past 90 years, the school has become the largest and most comprehensive university-based local government training, advisory and research organization in the United States.

Under Mike’s leadership, the school has expanded its expertise with new programs in public technology, public leadership and governance, environmental finance, development finance, data-driven policy analysis, criminal justice, and more. In 2013, Mike helped pioneer a fully online degree, quadrupling the number of students served through the Master of Public Administration program. Much of the school’s work occurs in the Knapp-Sanders Building, which was largely renovated and expanded through Mike’s leadership in raising legislative and private funds.

Late last year, the school exceeded its $50 million Campaign for Carolina goal, thanks in part to Mike securing the largest gift—$12.7 million—in School of Government history. In addition to supporting faculty programs, private gifts have significantly increased the number of endowed professorships available to honor faculty members. The school’s business and operations model also has been refined to improve services for public officials while generating greater revenue to support the school.

Mike is one of Carolina’s greatest champions of public service, and he travels regularly across the state to meet with public officials and learn about the challenges they face. He was appointed vice chancellor for public service and engagement under Chancellor James Moeser while continuing to serve as dean. As vice chancellor, he led Carolina’s response to UNC Tomorrow, an initiative to make the UNC System more responsive to the needs of the state, and he negotiated a $10 million investment by the Golden LEAF Foundation that funded collaborations with Carolina. We credit Mike, among others, for his leadership in several campus initiatives that fortify our connections with the state, including the Carolina Center for Public Service, the Thorp Faculty Engaged Scholars Program, the Carolina Engagement Council and the Tar Heel Bus Tour.

We will soon appoint a search committee to help us identify a new dean to lead the School of Government into its centennial. We are grateful to Martin Brinkley, dean of the School of Law and William Rand Kenan Jr. Distinguished Professor, for agreeing to chair the search.

For now, please join us in expressing gratitude and admiration for Mike Smith, a colleague and friend to so many on our campus and across North Carolina.


Kevin M. Guskiewicz

J. Christopher Clemens
Provost and Chief Academic Officer