“I've wanted to be a nurse since I was 5 years old,” said the College of Southern Maryland's Dean of Career and Technical Education Ann Smith, who has realized that dream for herself and helped hundreds of others to achieve their goals during her three decades at CSM. Smith, who earned a bachelor's in nursing from the University of Rochester, NY and worked as a nurse and nurse educator for 15 years before entering the University of Maryland to obtain a master's in nursing, will retire July 20 from CSM after more than 30 years of service.
“It's time. I realized I wasn't spending as much time as I wanted to with my family, especially my four grandchildren and close friends. The older you are, the more important your time becomes,” said Smith, who plans to spend her first two weeks of retirement with long-time friends in Maine.
“One-week vacations are great, but I learned years ago that a two-week vacation allows you to really forget the stresses of work. You return refreshed,” said Smith, who will return from this year's trip refreshed and retired but not entirely removed from CSM. “I plan to stay involved. There are a lot of projects I would like to see through to completion and frankly, I would love to be able to use and enjoy the college as a consumer use the fitness center, things like that,” said Smith, who has played a key role in the development of CSM's programs since her initial employment at the college in 1976.
“When I started at CSM, it was the first year of the nursing program and we had about 20 practical nursing students and three faculty members. A few years later, we started to develop our registered nursing program and squeezed all our classes into the same nursing lab. Today the nursing program has its own building on the La Plata Campus and we are focused on expanding our program on the Leonardtown and Prince Frederick campuses,” recalled Smith. In the last five years, the college's nursing program has graduated more than 300 nurses. In response to national and regional nursing shortages, CSM has expanded its nursing program admissions to twice a year with graduates in both winter and spring commencement ceremonies.
Growing academic programs is something Smith has become well-versed in during her more than two decades as dean. “I am so proud of how we develop our programs of study here. Unlike some disciplines that have fairly predictable course offerings, career technical education is constantly changing so our courses have to keep pace with what is happening in the workforce and community. I really enjoy creative program development and it is one of the things the college has been very successful doing,” she said.
“The biggest change I've experienced is that we now have campuses in each of the counties,” “explained Smith. “But what hasn't changed is the dedication of the faculty and staff who work hard to promote student success. The college has grown a lot, but our commitment to our students and the community hasn't changed and that is something of which I will always be proud,” said Smith.
“What I will miss most is what I have missed since leaving the classroom, and that is the day-to-day student contact, the building of relationships, watching students grow into working professionals,” said Smith. “I have always admired our students for their tenacity. Even modest educational goals take a lot of effort when you are juggling a job, community responsibilities, a family, even a couple of kids, so students need to be encouraged to keep focused on their long-term goals and not get bogged down by everyday problems,” said Smith.
Her love for students is readily evident to everyone who works with her. “I know it is a cliché but my favorite moments are always at graduation. I love watching the students as they are crossing the stage. You can tell by the look on their faces what their education means to them and their families. That's why we are here to help make those moments of accomplishment possible,” said Smith.