Berkeley College welcomes new President
July 24, 2015
On July 1st, Berkeley College gained a new president. Michael J. Smith ascends to the position from a long background at the college, succeeding outgoing President Dario A. Cortes, PhD, who announced his retirement earlier this year.
“We are both pleased and excited to promote from within,” said Kevin Luing, Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Berkeley College. “Michael Smith’s institutional knowledge and proven leadership ability, along with his concern for student success, will drive Berkeley College to new heights.”
Since Smith came to Berkeley in 1996, he’s worn a number of hats at the college, including Senior Vice President of Finance, Treasurer of the Board of Trustees, and Chief Operating Officer of the White Plains campus. His tenure has been marked by the transformation of the college’s technological infrastructure, as well as an increasing emphasis on a centralized approach toward organizational management and services. Under his watch, the college also beefed up its online degree program, garnering a U.S. News & World Report ranking as a Best College for Online Bachelor’s Degrees.
“My day starts and ends with one thought—what can we do to improve our students’ outcomes?” Smith said. This summer, he attended orientation sessions at five different Berkeley campuses, and over the next academic year, he will visit 52 classes—one per week.
On his first day as President, Smith met with associates from all ten Berkeley campuses, including the Downtown Brooklyn location on Duffield Street. He wanted to open the lines of communication early.
“I shared my vision of how we can work together to help our students achieve their graduation goals both in and out of the classroom. This includes providing flexibility in terms of access to support services beyond academics.”
Post-grad and extracurricular career preparation is a key point of emphasis for Smith. When he began his career on the business side at Berkeley, he grasped that the college was well-positioned to prepare students for careers in top companies, from Fortune 500 organizations to small businesses in a variety of industries: banking, fashion, health care, food and beverage, real estate, and law. Smith is a believer in the value of linkages between academia, business, and government, and Berkeley College maintains a number of collaborative partnerships—including with the Brooklyn Education Innovation Network—developed to help its students transition amongst those fields.
“One area I will be emphasizing is the further development of our customized support systems that address the individual academic needs of our students,” he added. “We will be intensifying the level of academic, mentorship and counseling support services and will be examining how we can enhance our scholarship programs as well.”
Prior to joining Berkeley College, Smith was Managing Director and Chief Financial Officer of MetLife Realty Group, a company of which he was a founder. That organization provided value-added investment management for $1.5 billion of real estate. He is also a Certified Public Accountant and a Chartered Financial Analyst. Smith resides in White Plains, NY, with his wife Marie and their two children.