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Former Elon faculty member named president of The American University of Afghanistan

C. Michael Smith, a faculty member in Elon's English department from 1968 to 1970, will be the next president of The American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) in Kabul. Smith is a longtime leader of international higher education and previously served as president of the American University of Nigeria and oversaw accreditation of 30 universities in the United Arab Emirates. He was recently featured in a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article.

C. Michael Smith talks with students at The American University of Afghanistan (AFP Photo courtesy Chronicle of Higher Education)

Smith joined Elon's English department at the same time as colleague Lamar Bland, who currently serves as a senior faculty fellow in the department. Bland, who has maintained contact with Smith over the years, says Smith was very popular with students and an excellent teacher.

Founded in 2006, The American University of Afghanistan is the country’s only independent, private, non-profit, non-sectarian, co-educational institution of higher learning. The university was launched by Afghan business and civic leaders who believe that the American higher education model will make a valuable and decisive contribution to the reconstruction and development of Afghanistan. With the support of the United States Government and private donations, AUAF has reached an enrollment of more than 300 undergraduate students and offers more than 60 courses taught by some 30 permanent faculty with internationally recognized degrees.

The university is currently raising funds to construct a new campus on 40 acres in Kabul designed to support a growing student population and more diverse degree offerings.

AUAF chairman Fazel says Smith’s experience as a higher education leader in another nation with great need will be essential to advancing higher education in Afghanistan.

“Dr. Michael Smith comes to AUAF at a pivotal time in our evolution as an academic institution,” Fazel said. “Afghanistan is primed for the next step in Higher Education. As president, Michael will no doubt build upon the momentum generated by Chief Academic Officer and recent Acting President, Dr. Athanasios Moulakis, and uphold the values upon which AUAF was founded.”

Smith said he welcomes the challenges ahead.

“I am honored to accept the position as president of the American University of Afghanistan,” Smith said. “AUAF can be a beacon for high quality university education in the region. I am excited to work with the university’s outstanding Board of Trustees and excellent faculty and staff.”

Known for his leadership in international education, Smith is passionate about educating people who would otherwise not have the opportunity to attend a university.

From 2007 to 2009, Smith served as president of American University of Nigeria (AUN), an institution which he helped found. Prior to that, Smith served as Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences from 2005 to 2007. Under Smith’s direction, AUN grew to 1,200 students from an initial enrollment of 124. In May 2009, AUN held its first graduation, where Archbishop Desmond Tutu delivered the commencement address.

Before leading AUN, Smith served as director of the Commission on Academic Accreditation in the United Arab Emirates, where he oversaw the licensing and accreditation of more than 30 universities and programs. In the United States, Smith was the Director for Planning and Assessment of the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, and the director of nonprofit education foundations in Pennsylvania and Florida. At Winthrop University, Smith was vice president for academic affairs and acting president.

Smith is a graduate of the Institute for Educational Management at Harvard University and holds a doctorate in British and American Literature from the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. He earned his master's degree from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in British and American Literature and has a bachelor's degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in English and Political Science.

Material for this story was provided by a news release issued by the Friends of The American University of Afghanistan.

Dan Anderson,
2/25/2010 3:57 PM