Eastern Michigan University Regents unanimously approve to extend president’s contract

EMU President James Smith will have his contract extended for two years

President Smith has enhanced EMU's status as the most diverse public university in Michigan by focusing on equity and inclusion initiatives, according to a school release. He embraced the “You Are Welcome Here” campus campaign in collaboration with other universities across the nation to encourage international students to study in the U.S. Eastern has since evolved the campaign to become, “All Are Welcome Here.” (LON HORWEDEL PHOTO, LON HORWEDEL PHOTO | EMU)

YPSILANTI, Mich. – The Eastern Michigan University Board of Regents unanimously approved to extend President James Smith’s contract through June 30, 2026 on Thursday.

Smith is EMU’s 23rd president in the school’s 174-year history. He entered the role in July 2016.

“President Smith has provided strong leadership through the many headwinds facing higher education institutions,” Board of Regents Chair Eunice Jeffries said in a statement. “He has been measured, focused and respectful in making important decisions to move the University forward.

“His dedication to supporting the success and well-being of our students and campus community reflects a deep commitment to fostering a positive environment that engenders excellence. President Smith has supported University initiatives that equip our students with the competitive edge to be successful in today’s society.”

Jeffries lauded Smith for his efforts in leading the school community through a global pandemic.

President Smith successfully led the University during the COVID-19 pandemic, which was the most disruptive event in the history of higher education, according to a school release. EMU maintained relatively low case counts through proactive case management, which won repeated praise from local health authorities. (Eastern Michigan University)

“Eastern’s positivity rates were among the lowest of Michigan’s public universities at the height of the pandemic,” Jeffries said in a statement. “Playbooks didn’t exist for a crisis of this nature. Under President Smith’s leadership, the University navigated the uncertainties with a great deal of care for the health and well-being of the campus community while providing the foundation to maintain University operations. This was a critically important undertaking.”

She also praised Smith for his role in creating a chief diversity officer at EMU, the expansion of the school’s engineering and technology campus and the $200 million investment in student housing, Welcome Home 2025, among other accomplishments.

Under President Smith's leadership, EMU has invested in significant facility improvements tied to the University's strategic priorities, according to a school release. This includes the $40 million renovation of Sill Hall and the $30 million renovation of Strong Hall. (Eastern Michigan University)

Smith will receive a 3% salary increase to an annual salary of $468,650. The raise is retroactive dating to July 1, 2022. According to a release, Smith remains the second lowest-paid university president in the Mid-American Conference and at peer universities in Michigan.

“I am grateful to the members of the Board of Regents for their confidence and their appreciation of the efforts of the University’s leadership team,” Smith said in a statement. “I am proud of the positive strides we have taken, together with students, faculty, staff and alumni. And, I know much work, and ongoing collaboration, is critical to continuing our progress.”

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.