After open forums for Cowley College employees and the Arkansas City community, dinner, and a face-to-face interview with the Board of Trustees, Dr. Randy Smith has been selected as the next president of Cowley College following a special meeting of the Board of Trustees Wednesday in the Earle N. Wright Community Room.
According to a news release from Cowley, Dr. Smith is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Tribe of Oklahoma and has been involved in higher education for over 26 years. He has served as a faculty member, dean, vice president of academic affairs, and College president. Smith currently serves as the Director of Program Development/Emergency Management and special advisor to the Chief of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma.
In June, Cowley announced Smith and Southwestern College CFO Tony Crouch as finalists for the job.
“My Great Great Grandfather was a Choctaw Chief, and he always promoted the importance of education over a hundred years ago,” Smith stated in the news release. “He knew how important education was and he encouraged the Choctaw people to get as much education as possible because it would serve them well. I believe that counsel holds true today for everyone. I do my best to try and fulfill his legacy and honor my Choctaw culture.”
Smith will assume the post on July 11. He will take over for current Cowley College president Dr. Dennis C. Rittle, who will be leaving to lead a community college in Arkansas. Rittle’s last day as president will be Saturday.
“I hope to make a difference for the college and the community,” Smith said. “Working in higher education is what I do and who I am. I love serving a rural population because you have to be very responsive to the community. I am a rural living person — I would not live anywhere else.”
Smith served as the president of a large organization of rural colleges, which included policy work in DC and on-the-ground trainings and consulting for rural colleges. Smith is a regular presenter at state and national conferences on the topics of leadership in higher education and student recruitment and retention at rural colleges, along with workforce and economic development in rural communities, Cowley said.
“I love working with students and seeing their success,” Smith said. “Whether it be a degree or a certificate, an education can change an entire family culture.”
Smith has testified in front of committees of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate as an expert on issues regarding rural higher education, the news release said.
Smith was an invited participant to the White House Summit on Community Colleges and has served as a member of the 21st Century Community College Commission that was charged with developing a long-term strategic plan for community colleges nationally. He also facilitated the first-ever Memorandum of Understanding between a higher education organization and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Smith facilitated the inclusion of rural community colleges in the Federal Farm Bill — the first-time rural colleges have been specifically included in federal legislation, Cowley College said. Smith received a three-year appointment to the America’s College Promise Advisory Board which deals with higher education costs nationally. Cowley said Smith’s true passion is helping colleges retain students to completion, and he has developed training programs to assist colleges in all aspects of enrollment management.
“Recruitment and retention of our students has to be our main focus,” Smith said. “An engaged student is a retained student. I want everyone at the college to be involved in this process.”
Smith also developed a Board Training Program entitled Roles and Responsibilities for Boards of Trustees at Rural Colleges, and he teaches this program across the nation.
Smith enjoys serving in the community and has held several positions, Cowley said, including board chairman for a rural county hospital district, volunteer firefighter and paramedic, member of a municipal police commission, and board member for a regional chapter of the American Red Cross. He is currently a certified law enforcement officer and has been for more than 14 years.
Smith has provided service as a police officer to his rural community for many years. He also served as a judge for the Miss Rodeo America Pageant in Las Vegas, and coaches rodeo queens and contestants from across the nation. His daughter Emily was a Miss Rodeo Oklahoma State titleholder.
Smith holds a B.A. in Political Science, an M.S. in Emergency Health Services Administration, and a Ph.D. in Higher Education Leadership. He also completed the Educators’ Leadership Academy at the University of Central Oklahoma. He is a recipient of the USDA Lincoln Honor Award (for his work with rural colleges and communities), the highest award presented by the USDA.
He and his wife, Dora, have horses and cattle near Seminole, Okla. Their daughter, Emily, is a sophomore at Northwestern Oklahoma State University, where she is majoring in music education. She is an accomplished track athlete and is a member of the NWOSU track and cross-country teams.
Cowley said Smith understands the importance of athletics at Cowley College and is impressed by the tremendous success of the Tiger athletic programs.
“I am grateful for the coaches and teachers I had that helped develop my love for athletics,” Smith said. “I believe athletics helped develop me into who I am today. I want the athletic programs at Cowley College to be successful and continue to grow. We also want to win and do things the right way.”
Smith knows there will be challenges but is excited to lead the College into the future, the news release said.
“Enrollment at the College is the most important thing for us to focus on,” he said. “I am a huge employee advocate and want everyone to participate in moving things forward. I want Cowley College to be a great place to work. I am also an advocate for workforce and economic development and am eager to serve the businesses and industry and all stakeholders of this area.”
In his free time, Smith enjoys rodeo, ranching, working with horses, playing and coaching basketball, powerlifting, golf, community service as a law enforcement officer, and all outdoor activities. His favorite activity is simply being outdoors on his horse.
“Cowley is a wonderful college with amazing employees,” Smith said. “My wife Dora and I look forward to integrating ourselves into the community.”