Office Hours with John Gardner graphic with John Gardner and Brandon Smith

Episode 32 – Imagining a Better Future

Office Hours with John Gardner

Brandon Smith shares his mission which guides his work to help other people imagine a better future and make that future manifest for students and institutions. Learn how he draws on inspiration from his theater background to ask important questions and develop innovation.

Guest Bio

Brandon Smith serves as an Assistant Vice President with the Gardner Institute after over a decade of higher education experience.  Smith started his career as a member of the faculty at Midwestern State University and  continued on to Brevard College to lead their theatre program and later serve as an associate dean for student success.  During his time working on student success initiatives at Brevard College, the number of students retained annually increased by nearly 30%.  

Smith is a recipient of the prestigious Richard A. Weaver award for theatrical directing (2010), The Kennedy Center’s American College Theatre Festival Distinguished Award for New Work (Bandersnatch, 2012), as well as both the Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year (Brevard College, 2014) and First United Methodist Church Exemplary Teacher Award at Brevard College (2016). Smith also works as a producer for videos showcasing exemplars at colleges and universities. He has collaborated on numerous videos for Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “How Safe is Safe Enough? The Long Term Effects of E-Cigarettes,” a collaboration between the UNC School of Medicine and StoryDriven, was recently nominated for an Emmy award. 

Smith continues to teach, write, direct, consult on storytelling, and conduct research in both the arts and postsecondary systems linked to student success. As a practitioner-researcher, Smith is particularly interested in utilizing improvement science tools to focus and catalyze organizational transformation. He recently authored a chapter in The Educational Leader’s Guide to Improvement Science: Data, Design, and Cases for Reflection, published by Stylus. In 2012, Smith contributed to an article about cross-disciplinary undergraduate research between the arts and sciences in the Perspectives on Undergraduate Research Methods (PURM), published by Elon University.  Brandon’s dissertation of practice, Unlocking the Gates: Faculty Professional Development for Increased Student Success in Foundational and Gateway Courses, outlined how the use of improvement science empowered a Networked Improvement Community (NIC) of faculty to redesign gateway and foundational courses at both 4-year and 2-year institutions. He holds an MFA in Dramatic Art from UNC-Chapel Hill and an Ed.D. in Educational Leadership at Western Carolina University.  

Brandon is currently working with the Gardner Institute on coordinating aspects of the Intermediaries for Scale Grant, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the ECMC PACE initiative; the development of a Readiness, Willingness, and Ability instrument with the Evaluation Learning Research Center at Purdue; development of Networked Improvement Communities; and collaborating on numerous other initiatives at the Institute.

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