President Clif Smart celebrates 10 years at Missouri State University

Published: Jul. 1, 2021 at 6:32 AM CDT
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It has been ten years since Clif Smart took over as president of Missouri State University. The university selected Smart to serve as its “interim” president ten years ago. He agreed to take the job full-time a little over a year later.

Over the past decade Smart said there has been ups and downs. The positives include the increase of state appropriations, beating enrollment and fundraising records and growing the professional doctorate program.

“When I took this job I didn’t take it so that I could then become president of the University of Arkansas or the University of Missouri or somewhere else,” said Smart. “You know, I’m a Springfield guy, I took this job because this was the job I wanted and I knew it was going to be my last job and I want it to do it as long as it was good for the university and for me. So knowing that you’re in the perfect job for you that you want, rather than looking for the next job, I think is one of the things that, that makes me a little different.”

Before the pandemic hit, he said the biggest internal challenge was finances especially managing numbers as the university began to grow.

Smart said the pandemic was the hardest six months of his professional life because there was no rule book to follow. He said his employees and students adapted and the 2021 graduates broke a record for the number of graduates.

“Other than for a few months during the pandemic I have enjoyed coming to work almost every day for the last ten plus years,” said Smart. “It’s really because the university changes students’ lives and getting to know students and engaging with them and seeing their energy and excitement about what’s going to happen in their lives. I mean once that stops being exciting it’s probably time for me to retire.”

Smart wants to be known as a consensus builder, friendly and engaged and to have a tone of kindness.

In recent years, Smart has served as the president of the Council on Public Higher Education in Missouri, on the NCAA Division I Board of Directors, on the Mercy Health Springfield Communities Board of Directors, on the Board of Directors for the Hawthorn Foundation and on the Board of Directors for Missouri Partnership.

Smart has also served on boards and committees for the Missouri Department of Higher Education, Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce, CoxHealth, Arc of the Ozarks, Springfield Innovations, Inc., Isabel’s House, First Baptist Church and numerous other professional and community organizations.

Smart hopes to stay on the job for 5 more years.

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