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Smitter brings love of learning to Chesapeake post

New liberal arts dean has strong interest in building student leadership skills

Posted on Wednesday, June 29, 2011

WYE MILLS – The location piqued his interest, but Chesapeake College’s commitment to learning is what sealed the deal.

"My wife and I really like the Eastern Shore," said Dr. Roger Smitter, who officially joins Chesapeake on July 1 as dean for liberal arts and sciences, replacing retiring Dr. Willie Woods. "More importantly, when I visited the Chesapeake website, I saw a clear, strong commitment to student learning. When I arrived here for my interview, that commitment to student learning was confirmed."

Dr. Smitter has extensive administrative experience, including service as chair of the Arts and Letters Division at North Central (Naperville, Ill.) College, and said he "likes building programs that help students and seeing them come to fruition." He continues to value hands-on experiences with students, particularly in the area of leadership development.

"I built graduate and undergraduate leadership programs at North Central, including a preceptor program for undergraduates," said Dr. Smitter. "In that program, students served a mentoring/teaching function in the classroom – doing things like running labs and giving tutoring sessions. Working with those students was just a joy – they were the best and the brightest."

While NCC is an independent, liberal arts college, Dr. Smitter said he can identify with the community college student population.

"I was a first-generation college student," said Dr. Smitter. "In fact, I was kind of a mediocre high school student – I had good grades, but it was all about doing the work and not about learning. In college, I found mentors who got me really excited about dealing with ideas. That greatly expanded my vision of what I thought was possible in my life."

Dr. Smitter also had considerable contact with community college faculty in his most recent position as executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based National Communication Association, the oldest and largest national organization of its kind.

"We had 8,000 members who taught communications classes and we dramatically built up community college representation in the association," said Dr. Smitter. "I learned a little bit about the challenges community colleges face as part of that process."

"Dr. Smitter has a passion for serving non-traditional students," said Dr. Barbara Viniar, Chesapeake College’s president, who added that Dr. Smitter has "hit the ground running" even before officially taking up his duties.

"He recently participated in the college’s cross-divisional retreat on developmental studies and also attended the Future Leaders Institute offered by the American Association of Community Colleges," said Dr. Viniar, adding that Dr. Smitter used AACC’s Future Leaders Institute "to immerse himself in the issues confronting community colleges today."

Dr. Kathryn Barbour, Chesapeake’s vice president for academic affairs and economic development, also praised Dr. Smitter’s hiring.

"Dr. Smitter will be a great addition to the Chesapeake College family," said Dr. Barbour. "He has extensive experience in higher education, as a faculty member, as a department chair, as the director of a prestigious interdisciplinary program, and as chair of the Arts & Letters division at North Central College, a position very similar to the position of dean. We look forward to his arrival on campus."

Dr. Smitter – who lives in Grasonville with his wife, Cheryl – earned his undergraduate degree from Taylor (Ind.) University and his master’s degree from Ball State. "I was on campus when David Letterman was there," Dr. Smitter said with a smile, referring to Ball State’s most famous graduate.

Dr. Smitter earned his doctorate from Ohio State University.

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