Elizabeth Smith leads Dartmouth's Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the institution's largest academic unit. As dean she serves as the chief academic officer of the Arts and Sciences, overseeing the division's educational policies, curriculum, and all matters relating to the effectiveness, development, and wellbeing of the faculty.
Educated in the liberal arts tradition at Agnes Scott College, Smith went on to earn a Ph.D. in cell and developmental biology from Emory University. Before joining the Dartmouth faculty as an assistant professor in 1998, she spent six years at the University of Minnesota, where she received a prestigious American Cancer Society fellowship for her post-doctoral work in genetics and cell biology. Smith was named a full professor at Dartmouth in 2010. She served as chair of biological sciences for three years, beginning in 2012, before being named the Paul M. Dauten Jr. Professor of the Biological Sciences in 2014.
An accomplished research scientist, Smith has published papers in leading journals and received grant support from institutions including the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the March of Dimes Foundation. She has received a number of external honors and fellowships, including being chosen as a K.R. Porter Fellow by the Porter Endowment for Cell Biology in 2008. Named for the researcher considered to have established the field of cell biology, the endowment honors mid-career scientists who have the potential for an outstanding career in cell biology. Smith's research focused on the assembly and motility of cilia and flagella—structures on the surface of cells.
As an administrator, Smith has championed the connections between the arts and sciences. As biological sciences chair, she worked with the Hood Museum of Art to commission a sculpture by artist and alumnus Gar Waterman '78 for the Class of 1978 Life Sciences Center. With support from the Andrew W. Mellon foundation, she collaborated with the Hopkins Center for the Arts to connect science faculty with emerging composer Fay Wang to commission a musical interpretation of microbiology.
Smith also spearheaded the renovation of the iconic Dartmouth Row—including Thornton Hall, Reed Hall, and Dartmouth Hall, which will soon become the new home of the Leslie Center for the Humanities in addition to several foreign language programs. Additionally, under Smith's leadership Dana Hall was repurposed and renamed Anonymous Hall. With modern teaching technology, faculty offices, reading and study areas, and a student lounge, this state-of-the-art academic building now houses the Guarini Institute for Graduate and Advanced Study.
Since assuming the role of dean, Smith has ensured continuous progress on Dartmouth's Inclusive Excellence initiative. In March 2021, her office published a five-year assessment of efforts by arts and sciences departments, programs, and administrative units to create a more diverse and inclusive campus community. A subsequent demographic study shows that the proportion of faculty of color has increased from 18% to 25% between 2015 and 2020. In January 2021, Smith created the role of Senior Advisor for Faculty Development, Diversity, and Inclusion to further expand efforts related to recruitment and retention.
Under Smith's leadership, Arts and Sciences faculty played an instrumental role in developing Dartmouth's Campus Climate and Culture Initiative, a comprehensive set of actions aimed at creating a learning environment free from sexual harassment and the abuse of power.
Additionally, Smith's support for Dartmouth's Call to Lead campaign brought critical new resources to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, among them a gift from Kathy and Rick Kimball '78 to advance scholarship and teaching in the arts and humanities; an extraordinary contribution from Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe '81 and John Donahoe '82 supporting the E.E. Just Program, which seeks to increase the number of underrepresented minorities at Dartmouth pursuing degrees and careers in STEM disciplines; and the historic commitment of more than 1,700 women philanthropists to restore the iconic Dartmouth Hall.