Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents unanimously approves two-year contract extension for President James Smith

President Smith congratulates a graduate at the Multicultural Graduation Ceremony.
(EMU file photo)

YPSILANTI — Citing accomplishments in academic and student support initiatives, facility enhancements, and budget stabilization, the Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents today (Dec. 8, 2022) voted unanimously to extend the contract of President James Smith, Ph.D., for two years, through June 30, 2026.

At the conclusion of the contract, President Smith will reach the 10-year mark as president and will be the University’s longest-serving president since 2000. Smith began his tenure at Eastern Michigan in July 2016 and is the University’s 23rd president in its 174-year history.

President Smith on campus by the Science Complex
President Smith began his tenure at Eastern Michigan in July 2016. See a photo gallery here.

Board of Regents Chair Eunice Jeffries said, “President Smith has provided strong leadership through the many headwinds facing higher education institutions. He has been measured, focused and respectful in making important decisions to move the University forward. His dedication to supporting the success and well-being of our students and campus community reflects a deep commitment to fostering a positive environment that engenders excellence. President Smith has supported University initiatives that equip our students with the competitive edge to be successful in today’s society.”

Key accomplishments cited in support of the contract extension include:

  • Guiding the University through the global pandemic. “President Smith assembled a leadership team of faculty and staff experts to oversee the University’s response to COVID-19 that was second-to-none,” said Jeffries. “Eastern’s positivity rates were among the lowest of Michigan’s public universities at the height of the pandemic. Playbooks didn’t exist for a crisis of this nature. Under President Smith’s leadership, the University navigated the uncertainties with a great deal of care for the health and well-being of the campus community while providing the foundation to maintain University operations. This was a critically important undertaking.”
  • Building a team of University leaders that bring excellence and commitment to supporting students. “Most recently, the creation of the position of chief diversity officer and the appointment of Professor Doris Fields as the initial officeholder in this area signals President Smith’s commitment to bringing critical considerations surrounding diversity, equity, inclusion and social justice to the highest levels of the University,” said Jeffries. “The hiring of Matt Lige as chief of police/director of public safety continues the foundation established by retired police chief Robert Heighes to focus on the safety of our campus community and a commitment to raising awareness of unconscious bias and enhanced training. At the same time, President Smith has encouraged other leadership team members to be creative and resourceful in their respective areas in support of the University’s strategic plan.”
  • Leading initiatives that create a foundation for University success for decades to come. “The expansion of the University’s engineering and technology campus as evidenced by the renovation of the GameAbove College of Engineering and Technology, has created a best-in-class environment for student and faculty success. The revitalization of Strong Hall, the final element of the University’s Science Complex, provides the foundation for student and faculty excellence in the rapidly growing market for STEM professionals in the sciences and health disciplines. And, Welcome Home 2025, the $200 million equity investment in student housing, puts our students’ needs at the forefront by providing high-quality living environments that include the technology and comforts that our students deserve and expect.”

Jeffries also highlighted the $16 million renovation of the Rec/IM, enhancements to campus dining, and the University’s adoption of block tuition as key successes under President Smith’s leadership.

Additional accomplishments can be found here.

Under the terms of the contract extension, President’s Smith’s current contract will be extended until June 30, 2026, and his salary will increase by 3% to $468,650 annually. The increase is retroactive to July 1, 2022. Smith is the second lowest-paid university president among Mid-American Conference and other peer Michigan universities.

“I am grateful to the members of the Board of Regents for their confidence and their appreciation of the efforts of the University’s leadership team,” said Smith. “I am proud of the positive strides we have taken, together with students, faculty, staff and alumni. And, I know much work, and ongoing collaboration, is critical to continuing our progress.”

About Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 14,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and its graduate school. National publications regularly recognize EMU for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. Visit the University’s rankings and points of pride websites to learn more. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website. To stay up to date on University news, activities and announcements, visit EMU Today.

December 08, 2022

Written by:
Walter Kraft

Media Contact:
Melissa Thrasher