Updated as of 4:30 p.m. Aug. 23 to include comment from Smith.

Gabie Smith, the dean of Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences, will step down after the 2023-24 school year and return to a teaching position in the Department of Psychology, according to an email from Elon University Provost Rebecca Kohn.

In an interview with Elon News Network, Smith said she made the decision to step down from her position last year because she wanted to return to teaching and always knew she wanted to return to teaching after her stint as dean.

“I'm really just excited to get back to teach. That was really what motivated my decision,” Smith said. “I'm just excited to jumpstart my scholarship. I get to relearn my discipline, and I get to work more directly with students. It's hard to maintain that while you're in these types of roles.”

Smith also said she is proud of her 10 years as dean, but said her notable work was not achieved alone.

Gabie Smith, the dean of Elon College, the College of Arts and Sciences. Photo courtesy of Elon University.

“There are no accomplishments that I accomplished by myself,” Smith said. “What I'm proud of is that we've created a culture and a team where we can achieve things.”

Smith stepping down marks the fifth senior staff member to leave their position in the last two years, following Jeff Stein, former vice president of strategic initiatives, who left in April after serving 21 years; Rebbeca Neiduski, former dean of the School of Health Sciences, who left in March 2022 after serving five years; Rochelle Ford, former dean of the School of Communications, who left in May 2022 after serving four years; and Aswani Volety, former provost who left in May 2022, after serving three years.

However, Smith said Elon is special in its retention and senior staff choose to stay so long because of the environment the university provides. 

“We have this expectation that people are going to stay in these roles permanently or for really long periods of time, and that's not the expectation in other schools,” Smith said. “The reason people stay so long is because they love the work they do.”

Smith was hired in 2000 and has since coordinated the Women’s, Gender and Sexualities Studies program, chaired the Department of Psychology and served as associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences prior to her appointment as permanent dean in 2015.

During Smith’s nearly decade-long tenure, her accomplishments included developing over a dozen major and minor programs, including the Bachelor of Science in Engineering. Under Smith, the Innovation Quad was built for engineering resources and as a studying location. 

Smith also helped build equity in student learning access and mentoring networks, as well as enhancing various fellows and scholars programs.

Smith has also done research on alcohol and sexual risk taking behaviors in adolescence and is eager to work on that again.

“I'm excited to kind of jump back into that as well,” Smith said. “This job is a great job. It's amazing, but you just can't maintain all those other areas when you're doing this type of work.”

Kohn was not available for Elon News Network’s immediate request for comment.