About James M. Smith, Ph.D.

Dr. James M. Smith is the 23rd president of Eastern Michigan University. He began his duties July 1, 2016.

Before coming to EMU, Smith served as president of Northern State University (NSU) in Aberdeen, South Dakota since June 2009. For the past seven years (2008-2015), NSU has been named by US News and World Report as one of the best undergraduate public institutions in the Midwest.

He has been an active fundraiser and was instrumental in helping NSU obtain the largest donation in its history, a $15 million gift.

Another NSU success was collaborating with the University of Jinan, in Jinan, China, to develop the first and only Confucius Institute in the Dakotas. The Confucius Institute has a specific three-part focus dedicated to the teaching of Chinese language, culture, and business practices. In addition to the traditional start-up funding provided, he was able to gain local and regional support of nearly $500,000 to launch the initiative.

Smith, 60, who grew up near Columbus, Ohio, in Washington Court House, knew early on he wanted to be a teacher. He always had admired teachers and enjoyed school. He became an elementary and middle school teacher after earning his Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education, from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in 1979. He would go on to earn a Master of Education, Educational Administration, from Xavier University in Cincinnati and a Doctor of Philosophy, Educational Leadership, from Miami University.

Over the next 28 years, he served as an elementary school principal, a teaching fellow and assistant professor at Miami, director of the Experiential Program for Preparing School Principals at Butler University in Indianapolis, and director of the Educational Leadership Program and coordinator of doctoral studies at West Texas A&M University. Smith was also vice president for Economic Development at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, before heading to NSU.

Smith’s wife, Dr. Connie Ruhl-Smith, has an impressive resume of her own. She has been a teacher, author and administrator, and has done extensive work in student retention and student academic support, introduction of international partnerships, and much more.