For the past 18 of 41 years since the creation of Huxley College of the Environment, a crucial Western institution that has helped pave the way in the field of environmental science and studies, Bradley Smith has served as dean. This past month, Smith announced his retirement from the position in order to pursue other facets of environmental work both on campus and in his leisure time.
Smith said he has always been interested in the environment. Long before environmentalism became a part of his career, Smith was an active outdoorsman who went hunting and fishing with his father.
“A goal is to always try and have your avocation and your vocation link up,” Smith said. “That’s an old saying but it’s true. People don’t go into the environmental world if they don’t like nature or the environment. It’s like people don’t become social workers if they dislike people.”
Smith said that while he is stepping down as dean, he will not completely retire from the university until July 31, 2013. Between now and then, Smith will continue to help Huxley in a less administrative way, working with external relations, fund-raising and continuing to help out with environmental programs at Western such as the Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy Program.
“Brad gave the Office of Sustainability its first home in Huxley College and he has been a key in helping our campus progress to both set and meet its sustainability goals,” Campus Sustainability Manager Seth Vidana said. “He has been a great supporter of our efforts and other people’s efforts and he has been the co-chair of our Sustainability Committee and done a great job there. We’re lucky that he wants to stick around [to help].”
Smith said that the continuity and shared environmental passion of Huxley’s faculty helps make the college strong and stable.
Smith said he would like to see every student graduate with a strong international perspective.
“I’ve enjoyed helping expose our students more and more to life beyond Washington state,” Smith said. “A lot of students have never been out of Washington, so to get them thinking about other cultures, other countries and to provide some opportunities for them to travel, I think that’s critical in this shrinking world.”
While Smith has enjoyed many aspects of the job, he said that the economic situation of the past few years within the higher education community has tired him. He said that instead of building upon the program, he spends a majority of his time dismantling parts of it with budget cuts.
“In budget cuts, it has always been the view of some people, who I think are the less-enlightened, to cut the small colleges,” Smith said. “I would hope that rather than hear the word ‘cutting’ small colleges, I would like to see the phrase ‘investing more’ in small colleges. It’s what makes Western unique and strong and different and the metrics prove across the board that that investment has great return.”