Meet President Smith

Headshot of President Joianne Smith"I believe in the transformative power of education, and am inspired by the countless examples of Oakton students who use the skills and knowledge they gain here to positively impact their communities.”

Joianne L. Smith, Ph.D.
President, Oakton College

As the fourth president of Oakton College, Joianne L. Smith, Ph.D., is deeply committed to ensuring students reach their goals through equitable access to life-changing educational opportunities in a warm and welcoming environment. This commitment aligns with Oakton’s bold vision of building just and thriving communities by creating opportunities for social and economic mobility for students and a pipeline of skilled workers ready to meet local employers’ workforce needs. This vision is outlined in Oakton College’s strategic plan — Vision 2030 — adopted in 2022.

Since her presidency began on July 1, 2015, President Smith has led Oakton into a period of unprecedented student-centered innovation. This includes the physical transformation of both the Des Plaines and Skokie campuses, designed to create a welcoming environment that fosters connection and provides state-of-the-art teaching and learning spaces.

President Smith has been a champion for student success. During her tenure, Oakton earned the prestigious designation of an Achieving the Dream (ATD) network Leader College. The distinction recognizes Oakton's sustained improvements in student outcomes and reducing equity gaps.

Additionally, Oakton earned national recognition for its innovative Faculty Persistence Project during President Smith's tenure. The initiative provides a framework for strengthening connections between faculty and students in the classroom, increasing student engagement and improving persistence rates. The program has been featured in several national publications and serves as a model for community colleges across the country.

In early 2023 — under President Smith's leadership — the College transitioned from "Oakton Community College" to "Oakton College," marking a new chapter in the institution's 50-plus year history. Along with the name change, Oakton College unveiled an updated logo and visual identity centered in diversity, inclusion and equity.

Prior to serving as Oakton’s President, Smith served for 13 years as Oakton's dean of students (2002-2004) and vice president for Student Affairs (2005-2015). Before coming to Oakton, she served in administrative roles at Northwestern University and Middlebury College (1999-2001). She's also worked as a licensed psychologist, a license she maintains in Illinois.

Smith earned her Ph.D. and M.S. degrees in Counseling Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University after earning her B.A. degree from Wittenberg University.