After four years with Cornell University, Dean Smith, director of the Cornell University Press, will head to North Carolina as he takes on the role of director of Duke University Press on July 1.
The Cornell University Press is a politically neutral publishing press that serves as a credentialing service, enabling scholars to receive tenure through publication, Smith said. It is one of the biggest university presses in the country.
During his time as director, Smith helped increase the number of published eBooks from 350 to more than 3,000 and add 150 open access texts to the Cornell Open website, according to the Duke Chronicle.
Smith also helped revamp Project Muse, an online database for journals published by university presses in the humanities, social sciences and mathematics.
“We serve the academy of scholars, the University, the community, our staff and — to some degree — the world,” Smith told The Sun. “My feeling is that universities really need to be about the diffusion, advancement and insemination of knowledge.”
As director of the Cornell University Press, Smith said his role is heavier in “business development, as he is constantly searching for ways to increase the press’s long-term sustainability. Currently, Cornell is a Tier 3 University press, with revenues between $3 to $5 million. Smith said that has spoken with his financial team about getting Cornell to Tier 4, with revenues of over $6 million.
“I am looking for opportunities for us to generate beyond the break-even,” Smith said. “That will help us pay for the scholarship and the mission-side of the business.”
He said that he envisions himself doing similar work at Duke, given that one of the main goals of university presses is to stimulate academic growth and generate curiosity. Duke University Press is a Tier 4.
“All presses for me are laboratories for change,” Smith told The Sun. “Just like any department on campus, there is innovation that has to be done.”
Looking back at his four years at Cornell, Smith said that the unique “entrepreneurial spirit” of the University has taught him to be open to all possibilities. The fact that students, staff and faculty alike are all willing to connect with one another in order to share and advance knowledge amazed him.
“I’ve met more interesting people in this place that is somewhat remote than I have in any major city,” Smith said. “Those experiences I will never forget.”
When asked about his motivation for the New York to North Carolina move, Smith said the decision was not made purely for career purposes. Rather, he and his wife had been considering moving to that region for nearly a decade.
“It’s always been an area that we’ve been interested in,” Smith said. “It’s more of a holistic, lifestyle, family decision. Besides, the [Duke University] Press is a world-leading publisher.”
Having spent four years at Cornell University — the same length as a typical undergraduate degree — Smith urged students to always be open to new possibilities, because one never knows which opportunity will lead to something greater.
“Continue to have a global view of the world, especially with an eye towards technology, because what you are doing with your phones and with your computers is what we need to learn from,” Smith said. “Continuing to push that will help us determine what the mode for scholarship is for the future.”
Although he is looking forward to his new position at Duke, Smith said he had an incredible experience at Cornell and will miss a community that, to him, felt like family.
“It’s very bittersweet for me, because I love being here,” Smith said. “I’ve loved every minute of being at Cornell. It’s going to be hard to leave.”