The Opportunity

Founded in 1849 as a small teacher’s college, Eastern Michigan University (EMU) today is a major learning and research institution with a distinct mix of comprehensive academic resources and strong community initiatives. With its beautifully wooded 880-acre campus featuring mature trees, outdoor art, a tranquil lake, and 18 miles of walkways and jogging trails, EMU serves more than 16,000 students from all 50 states and 83 countries engaged in 200 undergraduate majors, minors, and certificates, as well as more than 150 graduate programs, in five colleges plus an Honors College. Located in the diverse community of Ypsilanti, roughly 40 miles west of Detroit and less than five miles east of Ann Arbor, EMU fields 18 NCAA Division I sports teams competing in the Mid-American Conference, sponsors more than 200 student organizations, and houses approximately 21 percent of the students in University-owned, -operated, or -affiliated residences. The Princeton Review has named EMU a “Best in the Midwest” university for the past 18 years and has rated the College of Business among the nation’s best for 17 consecutive years.

EMU prides itself on diversity, equity, and inclusion, boasting a student population that is extremely diverse and comprised of nearly 40 percent of individuals who identify as non-white. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are not only strategic imperatives at EMU but are also concepts that are embedded into all steps that the University takes to achieve institutional excellence.  In this regard, EMU is a “University of Opportunity” for all stakeholders:  students, faculty, staff, and the larger community.

The Position

Role of the Chief of Police & Executive Director of Public Safety for Eastern Michigan University


Reporting to the President and serving on the EMU Executive Council, the Chief of Police & Executive Director of Public Safety works closely with staff, students, faculty, administrators, and the local community to manage and administer services and programs that contribute to a safe and secure campus environment. The Chief/Executive Director deeply understands the institution’s needs, issues, and environment and ensures that the day-to-day safety and security initiatives and functions are strategically aligned with the mission and goals of the University. The Chief/Executive Director manages and administers the Department of Public Safety, which functionally includes security and patrol (both on campus and in the surrounding community), traffic/parking control, investigations, crime prevention, and campus health and safety (OSHA compliance). Ensuring that the University’s Emergency Management Plan is current and relevant is also an important responsibility. The Chief/Executive Director collaborates with key committees and offices on campus including, but not limited to, the Public Safety Oversight Committee and the Title IX Office. Additionally, the Chief/Executive Director develops and oversees the annual Public Safety budget; represents EMU in union negotiations, labor/management meetings, and grievance hearings and meetings; communicates and ensures compliance with University policies, federal and state laws and regulations, the Jeanne Clery Act, and collective bargaining agreements; develops a culture that promotes and celebrates employee success, fosters a diverse and inclusive work environment, and offers leadership development opportunities for staff; and maintains positive work relations with outside law enforcement agencies, including the City of Ypsilanti and Washtenaw County. The Chief/Executive Director manages a budgeted staff of 51, including six direct reports, and oversees a comprehensive budget of just over $5 million.

EMU is committed to continuing its rich history of engaging with students and the greater community on interactions and issues related to public safety. The Chief/Executive Director will be instrumental in maintaining a safe community while proactively engaging community members in dialogue and partnership to build on the tradition of trust that the University enjoys. In this regard, the Chief/Executive Director will be proficient in community oriented policing strategies that foster positive relationships, with a focus on proactive problem solving and stakeholder involvement.

Specific Responsibilities

  • Direct the departments of Public Safety, Emergency Management, and Environmental Health & Safety; serve on Executive Council; and ensure that the University’s Emergency Management Plan is current and relevant.
  • Direct the planning and development of systems and procedures to improve the investigation and prevention of crimes, as well as the overall safety and security of the University.
  • Ensure that all incidents and arrest activities are properly documented, to include reviewing written reports/forms, communicating with staff, and completing administrative follow-up as appropriate.
  • Communicate directly with the University President, the Vice President for Communications, and other key administrators on major incidents and events, or issues that might affect the greater campus community.
  • Oversees the timely issuance of campus-wide alerts through the RAVE Alert system.
  • Collaborate with community stakeholders, including students, faculty, staff, and other constituents, to develop and manage a public safety program that is aligned with University values.
  • Educate and train appropriate stakeholders on topics related to public safety and emergency management, that may include, but are not limited to, Clery Act training, safety drills/tabletops, and Title IX incident response (in partnership with the Title IX Coordinator).
  • Manage institutional compliance efforts and reporting requirements pertaining to the Jeanne Clery Act.
  • Oversee the investigation of complaints against the department and recommend appropriate action in collaboration and partnership with the Public Safety Oversight Committee, which is responsible for addressing any grievances brought against EMU public safety officers and/or the University’s Department of Public Safety.
  • Represent EMU in interactions with other law enforcement and allied agencies, community groups, students, parents, and campus visitors; maintain positive work relations with external law enforcement agencies (e.g., the City of Ypsilanti, Washtenaw County, etc.) to obtain or exchange relevant information.
  • Monitor department compliance with outside agreements and contracts with other police agencies.
  • Develop and oversee the annual budget for the Department of Public Safety; ensure accountability and transparency of the departmental budgets, activities, information, and reports.
  • Communicate and ensure compliance with University policies, federal and state laws and regulations, and collective bargaining agreements.
  • Represent the University in union negotiations, labor/management meetings, and grievance hearings/meetings as required.
  • Create and maintain a process that produces employee and leadership development and work plans; develop a culture that promotes and celebrates employee success while fostering a diverse and inclusive work environment; and hold staff and managers accountable for high standards of performance and behavior.
  • Develop and deploy creative approaches to attracting and retaining new recruits (officers) to the University.
  • Stay abreast of current methods and practices in law enforcement.

History of the Position

Eastern Michigan University is fortunate to have a well-respected Chief of Police & Executive Director of Public Safety with more than 35 years of institutional knowledge and history. With 14 years of highly esteemed service in his current role as Chief/Executive Director, Robert Heighes is retiring in the fall of 2021 after a distinguished career at the University, and Spelman Johnson is assisting EMU in its search for his replacement.

Opportunities and Challenges of the Role

The next Chief of Police & Executive Director of Public Safety must possess a broad and deep understanding of national best practices with regard to comprehensive police operations, emergency management, environmental health and safety, community policing, and organizational and staff development in a dynamic campus environment. The Chief/Executive Director should be an experienced and visionary leader, possessing a deep understanding of current issues in 21st century policing, who is capable of managing complex situations and staffing, committed to customer service at the highest level, and equipped to contribute at both a strategic and operational level at a major research institution. With the ongoing national conversation around police violence and racial injustice, the new Chief/Executive Director must be prepared to proactively and collaboratively address these issues in an honest and transparent manner, fostering an interconnected culture of civil discourse, mutual understanding, and positive engagement.

The successful candidate will be a competent, empathetic, and dedicated individual who can promote and develop the EMU Department of Public Safety (DPS) staff/team, set departmental priorities and strategic goals, systematically engage the campus and surrounding community, and work proactively in tandem with President Smith, the Executive Council, the students and student organizations, the faculty and staff, and the DPS staff to progressively, innovatively, and comprehensively build on the successes of the previous Chief/Executive Director to move the program forward. The following were identified as possible opportunities, priorities, and challenges that will face the new Chief of Police & Executive Director of Public Safety at Eastern Michigan University:

  • It will be essential that the new Chief/Executive Director commit to a comprehensive culture of collaboration and partnering, as well as clear and transparent communication, within EMU DPS and across campus for maximum effectiveness. Eastern Michigan University is committed to building solid, healthy, and mutually supportive relationships as a foundation of its campus culture, and strong collaboration is an absolute necessity in all endeavors to ensure success. The Chief/Executive Director and EMU DPS touch a vast number of entities, including students, faculty, administration, departments, and the surrounding Ypsilanti community, so it will be crucial that the new Chief/Executive Director quickly reach out across each of these areas to continuously build solid and mutually beneficial relationships that foster ongoing positive interactions. It will be of great benefit to conduct a listening tour early in their tenure in an effort to gather as much input as possible, both internally and across campus. These connections are absolutely essential in order to assess the real needs of constituents, provide exceptional programs and services for the campus, and ensure that EMU DPS is known for its community- and student-centered approach at all times.
  • Community policing is an area of key importance at EMU, and the new Chief/Executive Director must prioritize this concept at all times. While already engaging in community policing on a daily basis, fostering an even stronger philosophy around this concept will allow the Chief/Executive Director and the other officers an opportunity to be seen as more proactive, responsive, and functional members of the campus community. Officers should be visible, accessible, friendly, and interactive with the student body and other parts of the institution, consistently networking with the faculty and administration, regularly involving the campus in safety and security training and other programs, and generally providing a positive representation of the department.
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion are crucial components of the Eastern Michigan University community, and the Chief/Executive Director should be a leader in supporting, understanding, embracing, and nurturing these concepts, both internally to EMU DPS and externally from the department into the campus and local area. EMU is the most diverse campus in the State of Michigan, and the EMU DPS must be a model for maintaining a strong sense of equity and an unbiased, supportive environment at all times. A demonstrated insight into the needs and concerns of the various individual communities represented at EMU is vital, especially given the national conversation around policing and racial inequalities; the Chief/Executive Director, then, will be expected to dialogue, empathize, and work to devise collaborative solutions and maintain consistent support for the underrepresented groups on campus and beyond.
  • Because the Chief/Executive Director reports directly to the President and is a key part of his management team, there will be a great deal of support in working collaboratively to implement new ideas, cutting-edge technology, high-end training, and national best practices. With great attention focused on the success of the EMU DPS across campus, these new ideas and advancements will be essential, particularly in maintaining vigilance in a post-COVID environment and in returning to a “new normal.” While not all new proposals can be undertaken, the new Chief/Executive Director will find that well-researched ideas with comprehensive data backing them up will be considered and given thorough vetting. Seeking out best practices at other institutions, remaining current on any professional benchmarking opportunities, and being involved in IACLEA, IACP, or other professional law enforcement associations will be greatly encouraged.
  • The expectations for the new Chief/Executive Director are high, and the successful candidate will need to quickly become familiar with all aspects of their responsibilities in order to develop a comprehensive list of priorities. The portfolio of the DPS includes Police, Emergency Management, and Environmental Health & Safety, so the Chief/Executive Director must ensure equity of attention across each of these areas of responsibility. With a large and expansive campus footprint that goes beyond the boundaries of the University and into the City of Ypsilanti, the EMU DPS has an extremely wide scope of responsibility for ensuring the safety, security, and well-being of students, staff, faculty, administrators, visitors, and the community. The successful candidate will need to commit a great deal of time upon arrival to learning the nuances and priorities of the campus, discovering the internal needs of the staff and the department, attending campus events, formally and informally engaging constituents, and beginning the process of reaching out to establish themselves as the visible “face” and leader of EMU DPS.
  • Serving as a vocal advocate for EMU students and providing instructive leadership in an engaging manner to the student body should rise to the top of the new Chief/Executive Director’s priority list. At the heart of community policing at EMU is forming relationships with the students whom DPS serves, so having a Chief/Executive Director, and subsequently the entire EMU DPS, present and engaged with EMU students is very important to building and maintaining trust and cooperation. The Chief/Executive Director will be expected to spend quality time attending student-sponsored programs, being present at student organization meetings, interacting positively with students outside of emergency situations, and proactively reaching out to the student community at large.
  • The successful candidate should make it a priority to quickly get to know the officers and other departmental staff as individuals, learn their particular needs, develop trust and confidence across the board, ascertain and understand the various responsibilities they perform and roles they play, be available at all times, provide comprehensive professional development opportunities and support for all staff, and oversee the ongoing promotion of a strong, cohesive team. These efforts should provide continuing emphasis on increasing officers’ knowledge and skills of best practices in higher education policing and cutting-edge trends in law enforcement, as well as promote a strategic vision for recruitment and retention of a robust and diverse work force. There is already a highly successful recruitment initiative from within EMU’s Criminal Justice program, wherein individuals are identified, hired, and subsequently sent to the Police Academy at the department’s expense to be certified, so a foundational basis for a strong and dedicated team is currently underway and can be further enhanced by the successful candidate. The new Chief/Executive Director should also be willing to strategically organize the department in a way that maximizes strengths, promotes unity and participatory management, and forges a shared vision among all members of the EMU DPS.
  • With four unions representing approximately 90 percent of the EMU DPS work force, the new Chief/Executive Director should be prepared to work closely with these unions for the benefit of the staff. The current relationship with the unions is very productive, and there is an expectation to continue this positive interaction going forward.
  • There are two EMU campus committees related to police oversight: one ad-hoc committee in the Faculty Senate and another comprised of faculty, staff, and students whose purpose is to receive and address any grievances brought against EMU public safety officers and/or the University’s Department of Public Safety. The results of the findings of this Public Safety Oversight Committee are reported to the University’s President. The new Chief/Executive Director will be expected to establish a strong working relationship with both committees.
  • Eastern Michigan University’s geographic location, less than five miles east of Ann Arbor (home of the University of Michigan) and approximately 40 miles west of Detroit, offers a great deal of positives for all walks of life. On campus stakeholders reiterated that they very much enjoyed working at EMU, are very supportive of each other, enjoy the vibrancy of the University, feel considerable camaraderie and collegiality, and believe that there are many opportunities for the next Chief/Executive Director to make a tremendous difference as part of an engaging team. Over the last 15 years, there have been a number of physical upgrades throughout campus, adding beautiful landscapes and new facilities, such that there is now a much more majestic, historic, and comfortable campus feel than ever before. Additionally, the Ypsilanti community is considered safe, diverse, and welcoming to new members. With a nearby robust assortment of restaurants and food options, cultural events, recreation opportunities, collegiate and professional sports, and an abundant number of outdoor activities, the city offers something for everyone!

Measures of Success

At an appropriate interval after joining Eastern Michigan University, the items listed below will initially define success for the new Chief of Police & Executive Director of Public Safety.

  • Strong relationships, partnerships, and trust have been established across a wide array of campus and external stakeholders, and interactions with these stakeholders are frequent and productive.
  • Positive student and DPS relationships continue and student complaints trend in a positive manner ; strong ties have been established with students, the Student Government Association, and other student organizations, particularly those that represent underrepresented populations; and communication with these groups is engaged, transparent, thoughtful, frequent, and comprehensive.
  • Morale and retention within EMU DPS is high, professional and career development opportunities are abundant, officers and staff feel respected and supported, and there is a strong sense of collegiality and teamwork within the department.
  • Communications from the Chief/Executive Director and the EMU DPS are transparent, frequent, and readily available.
  • New initiatives, innovations, and best practices in public safety, training, community engagement, and 21st century policing are being considered and implemented as feasible.
  • The Chief/Executive Director is visible across campus; is present with students, student organizations, faculty, staff, administration, and the community; maintains high levels of interaction and is generally engaged and proactive with the campus; and is considered the “face” of EMU DPS.
  • Based on climate surveys in the University community, public perception of the EMU DPS is positive.
  • A vision for the future and a new strategic plan are underway that will map out the direction for the program over the next few years.
  • Strong and positive working relationships have been established with the various unions represented within the department.

Qualifications and Characteristics

The position requires a bachelor’s degree (master’s preferred) in Criminology, Law Enforcement, or a related field, from a regionally accredited institution, or an equivalent combination of education, training, and experience, as well as seven (7) years of experience in administrative supervision, assessment of training needs, staffing, and analyzing the effectiveness of policies/procedures within a large policing operation. The successful candidate will possess demonstrated leadership abilities, including attracting, training, and retaining recruits; strong strategic and analytical abilities; and working knowledge of the Jeanne Clery Act, Title IX, and other laws/regulations that impact public safety in higher education. Demonstrated understanding of and commitment to the values of equity, diversity, inclusion, and social justice, as well as the ability to lead and supervise staff from a diverse and multicultural environment, with sensitivity to issues relevant to students, are required. The successful candidate will demonstrate effective oral and written communication skills, including the ability to make public presentations, prepare written policies and reports, and effectively and genuinely communicate, interact, and develop relationships with staff members, internal stakeholders, and external constituents from multicultural and multilingual backgrounds. Possession of a certification by the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) or the ability to obtain MCOLES certification within 120 days of employment; proficient knowledge and understanding of fire safety and security standards, as well as state-of-the-art fire and security technology and equipment, products, and services; and demonstrated ability to work in a highly collaborative environment are also required. Preferred qualifications include an aptitude for servant leadership, experience working in a highly unionized environment, and specialized training in security management, event management, and crisis management.

In addition to the minimum academic and experiential requirements indicated above, other desired characteristics, skills, actions, and/or abilities noted from discussions with campus stakeholders include the following:

  • breadth and depth of knowledge around safety, security, and law enforcement, with special emphasis given to the higher education environment;
  • a strong commitment to cultivating collaborative relationships and building partnerships across all levels of the institution and the surrounding community;
  • demonstrated experience successfully working with diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion initiatives with multiple stakeholder groups and effectively integrating these principles into departmental recruitment, training initiatives, programs, and services;
  • strategic vision that produces a consistently transparent and highly engaged DPS, as well as the ability to proactively motivate all levels of staff to support that vision;
  • working knowledge of the Jeanne Clery Act, Title IX, and other regulatory compliance initiatives;
  • a comprehensive student-centered approach, prioritizing the safety, security, health, and wellbeing of the EMU student population, as well as a willingness to engage student organizations effectively and attend campus programs and other student events;
  • strong leadership and organizational development abilities that inspire and develop others, providing professional development opportunities and promoting unity and teamwork throughout the department;
  • an excellent and transparent communicator with keen political acumen who intricately understands the language of campus safety, possesses the ability to reach all levels of the University, and can speak to students, faculty, parents, alumni, and the surrounding community with clarity and sincerity;
  • similarly, the ability to work collaboratively with University Communications professionals to ensure proper messaging and to interact effectively and appropriately with the news media at all times;
  • the ability to manage change effectively, with astute problem-solving skills and a forward focus, as well as a deep understanding of best practices, innovations, and current trends in campus safety;
  • high emotional intelligence, charisma, energy, and a positive attitude, with the ability to encourage and develop trust, celebrate successes, and persuade others to follow their lead;
  • the ability to make complex and/or unpopular decisions even when faced with pushback, to conduct difficult conversations when pertinent, to listen to all sides of an issue, to adapt to significant changes on the spur of the moment without being reactive, to hold staff accountable at all times, and to remain “cool under pressure” no matter the situation;
  • the ability to listen actively and carefully, to ask knowledgeable questions, to learn about the University and its priorities, to accept input from all levels of the institutional community (including DPS staff), and to then make well-informed decisions in an inclusive manner;
  • knowledge of mental health and its important connection to policing and public safety;
  • familiarity working within a highly unionized environment;
  • experience with inter-jurisdictional police work and the ability to create partnerships with external law enforcement entities;
  • integrity, character, fairness, humility, compassion, and a strong sense of empathy for the EMU community;
  • an understanding of restorative justice, social justice, and mediation in place of punitive solutions where appropriate;
  • strong technology, marketing, and social media skills, with an exceptional understanding of the value and importance of all three in the current and future safety/security efforts of EMU DPS;
  • budgetary and financial acumen;
  • approachability, availability, open-mindedness, and a sense of humor at all times.

Overview of the Department of Public Safety


The mission of the Eastern Michigan University Department of Public Safety is to organize security and public activities that enhance the quality of campus life and protect life, property, and individual rights.


EMU’s highly trained and professional police department is on duty 24/7, 365 days a year.

As sworn officers, EMU police are empowered to investigate, arrest, or take other necessary action to address any criminal or civil infraction. EMU officers work closely with local and state agencies, including the City of Ypsilanti Police Department, the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department, and the Michigan State Police.

The Eastern Michigan University Police Department takes pride in its diversity and, as such, reflects the rich diversity of the University. Underrepresented populations make up 31 percent and women make up roughly 25 percent of the EMU police department and are included in command and patrol ranks.

EMU police officers patrol by car, motorcycle, bicycle, and foot to maintain high profile, proactive, and preventive public safety services. Those services include the following:

  • Responding to emergency calls
  • Investigating crimes
  • Enforcing criminal and vehicle codes
  • Investigating traffic collisions
  • Community policing
  • Managing security and safety for the many special events that occur on campus

Environmental Health & Safety

The primary objective of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) is to assist the campus community in complying with safety, health, and environmental regulations.  The University must also be a good steward of the environment and public health.  Compliance is achieved through training, awareness, inspections, and prompt attention to safety and environmental concerns.  By working together, a safe environment for working, learning, living, and visiting is provided.

Emergency Management

Emergency Management at  Eastern Michigan University is dedicated to creating and maintaining a safe and resilient campus community through mitigation, preparedness, training, and educational outreach efforts. Using an all-hazards approach, EMU Emergency Management works to mitigate the effects of, plan for, respond to, and quickly recover from emergencies.

Institution & Location

Institutional Overview

Founded in 1849, Eastern Michigan University is the second oldest public university in the state. It currently serves more than 16,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences, and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors, and concentrations are delivered through the University’s Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education.

For the 18th consecutive year, Eastern Michigan University has been named one of the “Best Colleges in the Midwest,” according to The Princeton Review. The nationally known education services company recommends EMU as one of 158 institutions that were recognized in 12 Midwestern states in its list for 2021. The 2021 “Best Colleges: Region by Region” rankings name 655 schools in five zones—the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest, West, and International, and only 23 percent of universities in the nation receive this recognition.

The following are highlights around campus:

  • Students on University tours are taking notice of the $130 million Science Complex, which serves as the centerpiece of the University’s major focus on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education. In January 2019, the University reopened Strong Hall after a $40 million renovation project that completed the third and final phase of the Science Complex.
  • Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, several major projects remain in progress. The enhancements include the renovation of Sill Hall, home of the GameAbove College of Engineering and Technology, and extensive enhancements to the Rec/IM Building.
  • EMU has also invested in more targeted advising services, locating centers in each of its five colleges, along with centers in McKenny Hall and the Student Center.
  • EMU has been recognized as the top LGBTQ-friendly university in Michigan.
  • The College of Business has been ranked among America’s best business schools by The Princeton Review for 17 consecutive years.
  • The Clinical Research Administration program ranks among the best in the U.S. and number one in Michigan.
  • EMU’s graduate programs in Education have been recognized among Michigan’s best in the annual S. News & World Report rankings.
  • EMU continues to focus on high-demand, high job growth academic programs, including its recent addition of programs in public health, mechanical engineering, computer and electrical engineering, quantitative economics, fermentation science, neuroscience, and a master of science in finance.
  • Recently, EMU introduced the TRUEMU Global Rate tuition plan, providing in-state tuition pricing to all new incoming international undergraduate students.
  • EMU also recently introduced the 4WARD Graduation Scholarship that provides students with the final two years of their tuition for free when paying for the first two years; this program is designed to simplify and reduce cost considerations for parents and students as students begin their University enrollment.

For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University’s website:


EMU enriches lives in a supportive, intellectually dynamic, and diverse community. Its dedicated faculty balance teaching and research to prepare students with relevant skills and real world awareness. EMU is an institution of opportunity where students learn in and beyond the classroom to benefit the local and global communities.


Eastern Michigan University will be a premier public university recognized for student-centered learning, high-quality academic programs, and community impact.

Core values


EMU provides an exceptional environment to its faculty, staff, and students. It seeks to improve performance continuously and strives to be the best in everything it does.


EMU cares for its people, communities, and the environment and shows respect for the dignity of the individual.


EMU creates an environment that supports, represents, embraces, and engages members of diverse groups and identities.


EMU is accountable – individually and in teams – for its behaviors, actions, and results. It keeps its commitments.


Integrity and transparency are critical to EMU’s institutional effectiveness. EMU pursues the highest level of personal, intellectual, academic, financial, and operational integrity within the University community.

Strategic Plan

Eastern Michigan University’s Strategic Plan includes four Strategic Themes (noted as priorities), as well as numerous goals and objectives that are mapped to those themes. Departments across the University have designed specific tasks to implement the objectives, and work is underway to implement many of those tasks. The plan is intended to be a living document that evolves as the University’s needs and goals evolve, and is currently being updated.

Strategic Themes/Priorities

  1. Promote Student Success & Engagement
  2. Deliver High Performing Academic Programs & Quality Research
  3. Engage & Serve EMU and Regional Communities

For a detailed look at the plan, visit


James M. Smith, President

Dr. James M. Smith is the 23rd president of Eastern Michigan University. He began his duties July 1, 2016.

President Smith has led an active presidency at EMU, undertaking many positive strategic initiatives. These include the introduction of several new academic programs in high-demand areas; launching the 4WARD scholarship initiative; creation of the President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion and the President’s Sustainability Commission; launching an update to the University’s Strategic Plan; and making key appointments to the University’s leadership team (Provost and Executive Vice President; Vice President, Advancement; General Counsel; and Vice President and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics).

In addition, President Smith has overseen a significant investment in capital improvements across the Eastern Michigan University campus. These include the comprehensive renovation of Strong Hall, the third and final building in the University’s Science Complex; the renovation and expansion of Sill Hall, home of the GameAbove College of Engineering and Technology; constructing a new campus health center; renovation of the recreation/intramural building (Rec/IM); renovations of campus dining halls; upgrades to other facilities including academic buildings, classroom technology, and residence halls; infrastructure improvements, including a new co-generation unit that provides more than 90 percent of the University’s energy needs; installation of a new underground power system; expanded wireless capabilities; and upgraded roadways, sidewalks, and parking areas. An extensive array of new lighting and security measures further enhances the campus environment.

President Smith has initiated strategic efforts to increase EMU’s international footprint and recruitment base. He traveled to China during his first year to strengthen established relationships and identify new opportunities. President Smith is also supporting faculty efforts to travel abroad for academic, recruitment, and alumni engagement activities. Under President Smith’s leadership, the University is a proud supporter of the national #YouAreWelcomeHere campaign, encouraging international students to study in the United States.

Before coming to EMU, Smith served as president of Northern State University (NSU) in Aberdeen, South Dakota, since June 2009. From 2008-2015, NSU was named by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best undergraduate public institutions in the Midwest. At NSU, he led an initiative to develop the first and only Confucius Institute in the Dakotas, dedicated to the teaching of Chinese language, culture, and business practices.

Smith, who grew up near Columbus, Ohio, in Washington Court House, knew early on he wanted to be a teacher. He always had admired teachers and enjoyed school. He became an elementary and middle school teacher after earning his Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, in 1979. He would go on to earn a Master of Education, Educational Administration, from Xavier University in Cincinnati and a Doctor of Philosophy, Educational Leadership, from Miami University.

Over the next 28 years, he served as an elementary school principal, a teaching fellow and assistant professor at Miami University, director of the Experiential Program for Preparing School Principals at Butler University in Indianapolis, and director of the Educational Leadership Program and coordinator of doctoral studies at West Texas A&M University. Smith was also vice president for Economic Development at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, before heading to NSU.

Smith’s wife, Dr. Connie Ruhl-Smith, has an impressive resume of her own. She has been a teacher, author, and administrator and has done extensive work in student retention and student academic support, introduction of international partnerships, and much more. As Director of Development for International Relations at EMU, she actively engages the campus community with international development opportunities.


  • 200-plus majors and minors in five colleges
  • 3/29 average GPA of incoming freshmen
  • 18:1 student-to-faculty ratio

The five colleges:

  • College of Arts & Sciences
  • College of Business
  • College of Education
  • College of Health & Human Services
  • GameAbove College of Engineering & Technology

Graduate School:

EMU offers more than 150 graduate programs.

The Honors College:

Honors students are offered educational and cultural experiences through challenging courses and extra-curricular activities that encourage scholarly curiosity, leadership, civic engagement, and diversity.


The Associate Provost and Assistant Vice President for Graduate Studies and Research oversees the research support services at EMU. These offices include the following:

  • Office of Research Development and Administration
  • Office of Research Compliance
  • Technology Transfer

The research support enterprise at EMU has been designed as a one-stop shop for faculty pursuing research, scholarly, and creative activity.

Centers & Institutes

  • Center for Health Disparities Innovation and Studies
  • Coatings Research Institute
  • Institute for Geospatial Research and Education
  • Institute for the Study of Children, Families, and Communities
  • Textile Research and Training Institute

The Student Body

Student Enrollment: 16,324 (Fall Semester 2020)


  • Headcount: 13,527
  • Student Credit Hours: 160,297


  • Male: 5,345
  • Female: 8,227


  • White: 8,293
  • Black/African-American: 2,298
  • Hispanic/Latino: 975
  • Nonresident Alien: 218
  • Other/Unknown: 1,778

Other Characteristics

  • Full-Time: 9,630
  • Part-Time: 3,942
  • Average Age: 23
  • Average SAT for Full-Time FTIAC Students: 1,086
  • First-Year Retention Rate for Fall 2017 Cohort: 71.8%


  • Headcount: 2,752
  • Student Credit Hours: 19,230


  • Male: 909
  • Female: 1,843


  • White: 1,808
  • Black/African-American: 334
  • Hispanic/Latino: 192
  • Nonresident Alien: 146
  • Other/Unknown: 272

Other Characteristics

  • Full-Time: 897
  • Part-Time: 1,855
  • Average Age: 32

About Ypsilanti, MI

Eastern Michigan University is located in the heart of Ypsilanti, a progressive city of 22,000 residents and a lively shopping, dining, arts, and entertainment scene. The city center is divided into two districts: “Downtown” and “Depot Town,” each with beautifully preserved historic areas and a unique, vibrant culture.

While longtime residents preserve Ypsilanti’s rich heritage, an increasing number of young families are putting down roots and establishing new traditions. A local art incubator is home to writers, musicians, painters, graphic designers, and other artists. Innovative solar power and sustainable gardening venues add to the richness of life downtown, including the city’s two farmers’ markets. A local business incubator serves as a magnet for innovation-based businesses of all sizes.

The neighboring community of Ann Arbor offers another lively downtown with world-class museums, restaurants, and cultural attractions. Beyond these downtown districts are more than 23,000 acres of public park and recreation areas within Washtenaw County.

Benefits Overview

Eastern Michigan University offers a variety of competitive health plan options for employees and their families. EMU goes beyond the basics by providing an on-campus recreation center, wellness programs, generous retirement contributions, on-site daycare, and other benefits that support employee well-being and satisfaction. These benefits include the following:

  • Health/Vision Plans
  • Dental Plan
  • Prescription Drug Plan
  • Exercise and Fitness Plans
  • Nutrition Program
  • Tobacco Cessation Program
  • Lactation Support
  • Life Insurance
  • Tuition Waiver Program (employee and dependents)
  • Retirement Savings Plans (403B and two 457 plans)

For a detailed look at benefits, please visit

Application & Nomination

Review of applications will begin immediately, and continue until the position is filled. To apply for this position please click on the Apply button, complete the brief application process, and upload your resume and position-specific cover letter. Nominations for this position may be emailed to J. Scott Derrick at Applicants needing reasonable accommodation to participate in the application process should contact Spelman Johnson at 413-529-2895.

Visit the Eastern Michigan website at

Eastern Michigan University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic, or national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, age, ancestry, disability, military status, veteran status, or other non-merit reasons, in employment, and complies with all applicable federal and state laws regarding nondiscrimination and affirmative action.