Tom Smith to Serve as School of Education Dean

Tom Smith, a professor of public policy and education in Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, will join UC Davis as its new dean of the School of Education on June 1.

Smith is a highly accomplished researcher, educator and leader with more than 30 years of experience in education. Prior to joining Vanderbilt in 2022, he held several leadership roles at UC Riverside, including interim provost and executive vice chancellor, dean of the Graduate School of Education, and interim vice chancellor for Student Affairs.

Tom Smith
Tom Smith

“Tom offers a wealth of experience as a leader in higher education, and we are thrilled to welcome him as the new dean for our School of Education,” said Mary Croughan, provost and executive vice chancellor. “Throughout his career, he has focused on data-driven research that leads to better education policies, an incredible asset given our proximity to the state’s capitol. He is deeply committed to furthering our values of diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice, and brings proven practices that have supported the success of diverse faculty and students.”

Smith will take over for Cynthia Carter Ching, professor of education, who was appointed interim dean in July.

“I am very grateful to Cynthia for taking on this role and guiding the School of Education as we conducted a national search,” Croughan said. “She is a highly collaborative leader and a driving force for maintaining the school’s upward momentum throughout this transition.”

Ching will continue to serve as interim dean until Smith arrives.

As dean of UCR’s Graduate School of Education from 2014 to 2019, Smith hired 21 new tenure-track faculty, of whom two-thirds were faculty of color. He identified and implemented best practices to foster a more inclusive work environment that helped to support and retain diverse faculty members. Smith also instituted incentives and staff support for faculty to apply for external funding, increasing external grant funding from $1.3 million in 2014 to $5.8 million in 2019. The school also doubled its enrollment in teacher credential programs, successfully launched a cross-disciplinary undergraduate major, a new Ph.D. program, and several new master’s specializations, and developed a research-practice-partnership with the Riverside County Office of Education.

“I am thrilled to join UC Davis and work with such high-quality faculty and staff focused on improving education through research and teaching,” Smith said. “As a first-generation college graduate who grew up in Dixon, I am sincerely dedicated to improving educational opportunities for young people in the region, as well as throughout the state. I believe strongly in partnerships and look forward to building relationships with educational leaders in the region and policymakers in Sacramento.”

Prior to academia, Smith spent a decade as a statistician and policy analyst with several public agencies, including the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, the National Science Foundation, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris, France. Over the last 20 years, he has served as a principal investigator on numerous grant-funded research projects totaling more than $30 million. Smith was selected as an American Education Research Association Fellow in 2019 and was the MacArthur Foundation Endowed Chair at UCR from 2014 to 2019.

Smith earned a Bachelor of Arts in economics from UCLA, a Master of Arts in economics from Columbia University, a Master of Arts in sociology from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and a Ph.D. in educational theory and policy from Pennsylvania State University.

Media Resources

Media Contacts:

  • Karen Nikos-Rose, News and Media Relations, UC Davis, 530-219-5472,
  • Eva Guralnick, School of Education, UC Davis,

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