Meet President Smith

President Joianne Smith"At Oakton, our students' success is our success. We are invested in them, and offer the right programs, high-quality instruction and academic and personal support so our students can achieve whatever it is they set their mind to." — Joianne Smith, Ph.D.

Joianne Smith, Ph.D., is Oakton Community College's fourth president. She provides the vision for Oakton and continues its strong tradition of student success. She is dedicated to increasing student engagement and promoting an inclusive and caring environment for teaching and learning.

President Smith leads an administrative team comprised of vice presidents and directors. This team is drawn from a variety of areas throughout the college, including representatives from the business, finance, technology, and human resources areas. The student-focused, academic side of the institution is represented as well, with leaders from academic affairs; student affairs; college relations; institutional research, curriculum, and planning; and continuing education, training and workforce development.

An eight-member Board of Trustees—consisting of seven elected members and one student trustee—works closely with President Smith.

President Smith’s tenure of leadership began on July 1, 2015, following 13 years of service to Oakton as dean of students (2002-2004) and later, vice president for Student Affairs (2005-2015). Before coming to Oakton, she served as assistant director of University Residence Life at Northwestern University (2001-2002) and dean of Brainerd Commons at Middlebury College (1999-2001). She's also worked as a licensed psychologist, a license she still maintains in the state of Illinois.

Under President Smith's leadership, the college adopted its "Success Matters" strategic plan (PDF) (8 MB), and the principles it prioritizes—equity, teaching and learning, community and planning—are representative of her approach. President Smith has guided Oakton into a period of unprecedented innovation, all guided by an unflinching commitment to ensuring every student has access to best-in-class educational opportunities and a true feeling of belonging.

That focus on the well-being of students has characterized President Smith's entire career at Oakton. As vice president for Student Affairs, she reorganized the division to improve student support services and she designed and constructed enrollment centers on both the Des Plaines and Skokie campuses. President Smith established the Office of Access, Equity and Diversity and hired Oakton's first-ever chief diversity officer. She led the creation of the  Office of Advising, Transitions and Student Success, hiring its first director, and was instrumental in Oakton’s participation in Achieving the Dream, a national reform network to help community college students succeed with improved skills and employability.

In 2020, President Smith was one of 25 applicants chosen to join the inaugural class of the Aspen New Presidents Fellowship, an initiative designed for exceptional leaders in the first five years of their college presidency as they seek to accelerate transformational change on behalf of students. This honor was a recognition of how President Smith's leadership has refocused Oakton's Mission and achieved key goals such as improving student persistence and completion rates. It also was an opportunity to connect with and learn from other exceptional educators across the country and to develop plans with structured support for how to make Oakton even more effective in its mission to serve students and the community.

President Smith is actively involved in her family’s faith community as a member of Temple Beth-El in Northbrook and as a mentor in the Chicago Interfaith Family Network. She serves on the Northshore University Skokie Hospital Community Advisory Committee and the Ascension Holy Family Des Plaines Community Advisory Board, the Community Colleges for International Development Board of Directors, and the Evanston Cradle to Career Operations Team.

Smith earned both a Ph.D. and a master's degree in Counseling Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University after earning her bachelor's degree from Wittenberg University.

She and her husband reside in Glenview with their children.