SOG dean emeritus wins Holshouser Award

Mike Smith, former dean of the UNC School of Government, was honored for excellence in public service.

Headshot of Mike Smith next to text that reads

Mike Smith, dean emeritus of the UNC School of Government, was named a winner of the 2023 Gov. James E. Holshouser Jr. Award for Excellence in Public Service.

The award, announced at the Feb. 29 UNC Board of Governors meeting, honors faculty who exemplify the UNC System’s commitment to service and community engagement.

Smith came to Carolina in 1978 as an assistant professor in what was then the Institute of Government. He rose through the ranks, also serving as a professor of public law and government and vice chancellor for public service and engagement. Through his leadership, the institute became the School of Government in 2001.

“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,” said former UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz.

Through his time in Chapel Hill, Smith has championed nonpartisan public service. The school is the largest university-based organization to offer local government training, advising and research in the United States.

“Mike is a model of selfless, nonpartisan public service,” said UNC System President Peter Hans. “He understands on a bone-deep level that this University belongs to all North Carolinians, and that we must use our research and scholarship to benefit our citizens. He has put this belief into practice over many decades at Carolina, and we are indebted to him for his support of good government in both large and small communities around the state. My congratulations to him on this well-deserved award.”

Under Smith’s leadership, the school has expanded its expertise with programs in public technology, leadership and governance, environmental finance, development finance, data-driven policy analysis, criminal justice and more. In 2013, Smith helped pioneer a fully online degree, quadrupling the number of students served through the Master of Public Administration program and making it easier for public officials across the state to take the next step in their careers.

Smith was appointed vice chancellor for public service and engagement under former Chancellor James Moeser while continuing to serve as dean. As vice chancellor, he led the University’s work with 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 between faculty and local communities. Smith has led several campus initiatives that strengthen 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 are grateful to Mike Smith for his unwavering support of state and community leaders and commend him for his work to promote ethical and accountable public service in North Carolina,” said Board of Governors Chair Randy Ramsey. “Our congratulations to him on this award.”

The Board of Governors also gave a Holshouser Award to Kuldeep Rawat of Elizabeth City State University.