Written by Kelsey Dickerson, Editor-in-Chief
VSU has announced its new Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs. Robert Smith, from Armstrong State University, will assume the position today.
Dr. Robert Smith, photo courtesy of Armstrong State University.
Dr. Smith, a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania native, first moved to the south in 1982 to assume a position as an assistant professor of mathematics at Virginia Tech. After a few years, he moved back to Pennsylvania to assume a position as the dean of science and mathematics at Millersville University. Eventually, he began looking for positions as a provost.
When, after 28 years in Pennsylvania, a position opened at Armstrong State, Dr. Smith said it was too good an opportunity to pass up. “It really looked interesting,” Dr. Smith said. “The institution looked interesting, and my wife had lived in Georgia for a short time when she was growing up, but otherwise we had never lived this far south.”
At VSU, Dr. Smith’s focus will be on improving retention and graduation rates. “Valdosta’s rates are about where Armstrong’s were a couple of years ago,” he said. “I’m very interested in working with the deans and other faculty and staff in Student Affairs to see what we can do to improve student’s persistence to graduation.”
Dr. Smith has two children, a daughter who lives and works in Philadelphia, and a son who works as an intern in Atlanta. “My daughter, she loves this part of the country,” Dr. Smith said. “She calls our house her vacation home.”
Dr. Smith and his wife have visited Valdosta only a couple of times, but are excited to explore the area. “I love the downtown,” Dr. Smith said. “It’s a beautiful place. Everybody we’ve met—everyone has been so nice.”
In his free time, Dr. Smith has an interesting hobby. “I like to tell people in my spare time I write calculus books,” he said. He’s written a total of 10 textbooks. “I’m not writing any currently,” he said. “I haven’t for a couple of years just because being a provost is a full-time opportunity.”
The South Georgia weather is great for his other hobby, golfing. “My rule in Pennsylvania was if it’s 40 degrees or warmer, you can play,” Dr. Smith said. “That’s pretty much 365 days a year down here.”
Though he doesn’t have much time, he loves to go out to play when he can. “I don’t want to brag or anything, but almost every time I play I get the highest score,” Dr. Smith said, laughing.
“Life’s all about taking risks, and this was a great one,” Dr. Smith said. “I love South Georgia. I wish I had been here longer.”