Staff Spotlight: Dr. Peggy Ward-Smith – New Interim Dean

Dr. Peggy Ward-Smith, currently the SGS Faculty Fellow and an Associate Professor in the School of Nursing and Health Studies, has accepted the position of Interim Dean for the School of Graduate Studies for the next year.

“The overarching duties are to oversee the School of Graduate Studies programs. I believe I’m going to spend the next year hopefully streamlining some things, getting rid of the gaps, making things equitable,” she said. “I hope to position the School of Graduate Studies to grow.”

In her Faculty Fellow position, Peggy worked directly with the Graduate Student Council, a student organization whose members are all active UMKC graduate students.

“My experience over the last year with the School of Graduate Studies and the Graduate Student Council is it is an underrepresented resource at UMKC,” she said. “It’s here but people don’t know it. Students don’t know what the School has to offer, faculty don’t know what the School has to offer.”

Peggy has a vision for where Graduate Studies is headed at UMKC.

“As college degrees become more universal and more available to everyone, I think the discriminating factor is going to be the graduate degree,” she said. “Just as UMKC is the provider of higher education in the Kansas City area, we should also be the provider of graduate education. But we can also go broader than the KC area, because we can go online.”

For current students, Peggy thinks the needs center on mentoring and having faculty who are focused on the students.

“I’d like to implement somehow that the faculty who work graduate students have a kind of ‘cheat sheet’ for what’s available to graduate students and how to get them there. That includes the writing initiative, the counseling center, math tutoring, etc.,” she said. “We tend to think ‘Well they’re graduate students, they’re professional people, they shouldn’t need anything,’ and that’s not true.”

Peggy says that UMKC is a good choice for graduate studies for the same reason we attract undergraduates.

“We have good diversity, in terms of our students and in terms of our faculty and in terms of our faculty paradigms. I think we are able to agree to disagree here in a rather civil manner. We get passionate at points in time, but I think we can agree to disagree. I think those are the best conversations we have, is when you’re with people that you don’t agree with,” she said. “UMKC also offers the option to take courses through MU or UMSL, so that if it’s not offered here and you really want it, you don’t have to change schools. You can get it here. It’s a whole course-sharing initiative. You get the beauty of a small school, UMKC, with a large opportunity that you can access if you want to.”

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