Skip to main content

Celebrating Dr. William Smith

Thank you for all your contributions to Sociology and Anthropology

The 1911 building on the Court of North Carolina.

Dr. William Smith has been a faculty member of the NC State Department of Sociology and Anthropology for the past 29 years. In his time at NC State, Dr. Smith has dedicated himself to adding to the field of sociology and bettering the department.

I have gotten to know Dr. Smith for the past year, both as a professor and research mentor. With his retirement forthcoming after this semester, I was able to interview Dr. Smith and learn more about his career in criminology, reflections on his time with the department, and his hopes for its future.

Dr. William Smith.

Dr. Smith received his M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology from Rutgers University and began working at NC State in 1993 as an assistant professor and was promoted to associate with tenure in 2000. Dr. Smith readily accepted his role as department head in 2013 and “took on the challenges and responsibilities that go along with that role.”

He mentioned that “such leadership involves a lot of personal sacrifice and devotion of countless hours that no one other than family really sees. You can’t do it alone, and as such, I was fortunate to have a team of very capable and devoted faculty and staff step up and help me with the administration of the department.”

After nearly 30 years serving NC State, Dr. Smith has witnessed the evolution of the department and played a major role in its development. He reflects on a department with “IBM Selectric typewriters and faculty-assigned secretaries,” before technological advancements allowed for data analysis and Powerpoint-guided lectures. But, as technology improved, enrollment declined. When Dr. Smith took up his role as department head in 2013, he implemented a number of strategies to reinvigorate the department.

He implemented necessary strategies to increase student and faculty enrollment, retain faculty lines and diversify faculty demographics. Dr. Smith expanded the college and department by hiring more professional instructors and advanced graduate students to teach classes while also increasing class enrollment so as not to increase the workload for tenure track faculty. To ensure the longevity of the department, Dr. Smith maintained its solid, organizational foundation by hiring a new wave of younger faculty that would continue teaching its values for a long time to come. 

In addition to Dr. Smith’s service in administration, he has contributed to the growing body of criminological research during his time at NC State. His work has been published in academic journals such as J. of Quantitative Criminology, British Journal of Criminology and Criminology. His interests focused primarily on institutionalized juvenile populations, criminal career research, criminal sentencing, family and school in relation to delinquency, racial discrimination, and neighborhoods in relation to crime and health. Dr. Smith has contributed to the detection of and interventions for career criminals (sequences of types of crime offenders commit) by applying nonlinear methods and reassessing the predictive elements of recidivism. Dr. Smith has used his research to minimize racial discrimination in policing by developing risk assessment instruments that have been used by several police departments. Dr. Smith noted, “My work has demonstrated how models of police stops/arrests can be used to identify areas of under- and over-policing of minorities.” Dr. Smith has and continues to conduct meaningful research that has real-life implications and meaningful consequences. 

Dr. Smith has also been involved in interdisciplinary research with colleagues from the NC State College of Design and College of Natural Resources. Dr. Smith emphasized the importance of cross-discipline work, mentioning that it is “a tremendous opportunity for us to step out of our intellectual silos and learn from how other academic disciplines approach various subject matters. I feel that I myself have learned a lot from my colleagues in other colleges about concepts… that I would never have been exposed to within my narrow sociological framework.” 

Dr. Smith and his wife, Nancy, are looking forward to the arrival of their first grandchild later this spring, and he hopes to perfect the art of fly-fishing over the next few years. Although Dr. Smith will be retiring this year, he plans to continue his current research, such as his studies about the time of day street robberies and bail disparities. He will also begin research with a focus on the built environment and social origins of 19th-century architecture. 

Dr. Smith has shown tremendous dedication to the department and he will be missed by the faculty, staff and students at NC State. Thank you for your leadership and continued contribution to the field of sociology and criminology. 

“I’d like to express my thanks to everyone in the department (current and past) who have been there for me over the years. I have immensely enjoyed my time in the department and am thankful especially to those who decided to hire me back in 1993!” -Dr. William Smith

“I will forever be a Wolfpacker, and get a lot of enjoyment following our sports teams and being a Wolfpack Club donor.” -Dr. William Smith

Headshot of Josie McGlynn

This article is by Josephine McGlynn, a Sociology and Anthropology student ambassador majoring in criminology and psychology.