Making an impact on the world, a deeply felt goal of young people, is something the students of Dennis Smith say they learn how to accomplish in working and studying with him. As a teacher in Government and International Relations, Professor Smith challenges his students to bring together theory and practice in trying to understand global issues. He brings a wide range of current events and world problems into his classes, and then works with his students to apply political science theory in a search for possible solutions. The results, his students say, are exhilarating. A typical comment from a student taught by Dennis Smith is, “I never worked so hard,” invariably followed by “or loved it so much.”
Professor Smith’s passion for engaging his students with current world problems led him to create one of the College’s most innovative programs: Projects in International Security and Peace (PIPS). Along with colleagues, particularly Professor Amy Oakes, Professor Smith mentors students in researching a major issue in the area of international security. The completed projects provide a detailed summary of the issue and offer proposals to address the issue. At the end of the academic year, students in PIPS present their research to high-level professionals in Washington, D.C., at venues such as the Brookings Institution or the Carnegie Endowment for Peace. The results, according to professional diplomats, federal officials, journalists, and consultants, are stunning. Even though PIPS is only a few years old, a number of Professor Smith’s former students are now working in positions in Washington, D.C., thanks to his mentorship.
It is appropriate to have someone in the Faculty of Arts & Sciences who makes such an impact on students be an inaugural winner of the Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence.