New Education School Dean Starts

Thomas Smith, who came from Vanderbilt University, wants to enhance the Graduate School of Education's local and national reputation

headshot of Thomas Smith.

Thomas Smith, dean of the Graduate School of Education.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — Thomas Smith has started his tenure as dean of the University of California, Riverside’s Graduate School of Education.

Smith, who was previously a faculty member at Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education and Human Development, started at UC Riverside at the beginning of this month. He succeeds Douglas E. Mitchell, who has served as interim dean since 2011. Mitchell will remain a professor at the school.

Smith said he came to UC Riverside because of new top-level leadership, growing research capacity, plans to add 300 faculty members in the coming years and the opportunity to enhance the Graduate School of Education locally and nationally.

“It is an exciting challenge to go to a school that has strong roots and to take the good work that is already occurring and push it into something that is bigger and better recognized,” he said.

Before arriving at UC Riverside, Smith spent 14 years as a faculty member at Vanderbilt University, where he was the director and principal investigator of the National Center for Scaling Up Effective Schools. The center is funded by a five-year, $13.6 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences, a research arm of the U.S. Department of Education.

The center is a collaboration between five universities, two large urban districts in Texas and Florida, and a developer of educational tools and programs. It aims to help school districts identify effective practices, design and test innovations that capture the critical components of those practices and implement and scale up those practices to help students from traditionally low performing groups.

Now, as executive director of the project, Smith will be less involved in the day to day management, but will continue in a leadership and analysis role. This fall he will recruit graduate students and post-doctoral students to join the project.

Smith has also been the principal investigator or co-principal investigator on 10 other federal research grants, totaling more than $12 million, including several major cross-disciplinary research projects focusing on improving the support and accountability structures in mathematics instruction.

At UC Riverside, Smith, who has two teenage daughters who are attending Poly High School in Riverside, hopes to build upon and expand partnerships between the GSOE and the local school districts.

“Much of my research has focused on developing partnerships to address enduring problems faced by school districts across the nation,” Smith said. “The Inland Empire seems like the ideal place to continue that work.”

Prior to joining Vanderbilt, Smith spent a decade as a statistician for the U.S. Department of Education, an administrator for the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris and as a senior analyst at the National Science Foundation.

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