Born and raised near Galax, Virginia, Dr. Mark A. Smith has been a devote Christian for his whole life, passionate about spreading the words and message of Christ. Dr. Smith made the decision early in his college career at Hobe Sound College to answer the call of ministry in his profession. He received his Bachelor’s degree here and continued on to Northeastern State University where he earned his Master’s in college teaching. After that, Dr. Mark A. Smith graduated with his Doctor of Education from West Virginia University. He has also notably completed Harvard University’s Institute of Educational Management for Executive Management.
Prior to his current role as the President of Columbia International University, Dr. Mark Smith served as the President of Ohio Christian University for 11 years, during which time he grew the student enrollment tenfold from 400 to over 4,600. He is very passionate about helping students receive the education that they deserve. At OCU, Dr. Smith helped to fund the development of the university by helping to raise over 20 million dollars. With these funds, the university was able to open 14 rural sites and offer online education programs to expand student learning opportunities. Dr. Mark Smith was also responsible for growing the faculty personnel from 50 to approximately 800 employees in his tenure as well.
At Columbia International University, Dr. Smith has the same aspirations to increase enrollment numbers and unique opportunities for students to receive an education. His vision is to spread the message of Christ throughout various nations with the help of emerging technology and to educate students from a worldwide biblical standpoint.
Dr. Mark Smith enjoys writing in his personal and professional life and has even been named on numerous publications. He has written informative articles for professional and educational organizations, as well as co-authored 2 books: Leading Change in Your World and The Church Leader’s MBA, a management manual for church leaders.
Dr. Smith genuinely enjoys working and is passionate about his duties not only as the president of Columbia International University but also as a dedicated Christian and lover of Christ. On the rare occasions when he is not working or sharing his new ideas with colleagues, you can likely find Dr. Smith absorbed in nature and admiring its bounty. Dr. Smith is an avid hunter and travels annually to various locations across the east coast to hunt different game. He enjoys fishing, especially for trout, and looks for any excuse to be on the water. His sons often join him in this pursuit of serenity, using the time with nature to reflect on their relationships with God. Dr. Mark Smith is happily married to his wife, Debbie, and loves to spend time at home with his family.
Our Interview With Dr. Mark Smith
What’s the most important thing we should know about you?
Dr. Mark Smith: When I was only 30 years old, I was hit head on in a collision. When I woke up, I was given the news that I would never walk again and would likely be disabled for the remainder of my life. During one of the darkest times in my life, I turned to God for help. After hours of physical therapy, along with hard work and tenacity, I am walking once again. My faith in God and my own perseverance are what I attribute to my success today.
Name the most impactful lesson you learned from failure.
Dr. Mark Smith: From the failures in life that I have experienced, I have learned many lessons. The most important lesson I learned is that even if the experts say that something is over or encourage me to give up, nothing can measure up to the heart of a man who wants to win.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Dr. Mark Smith: As the president of various universities in my professional career, I have helped over 25,000 diverse students receive degrees in higher education. I love to fight for the underdog and see the students pride themselves on such an accomplishment.
What did you waste the most time on when you were first starting your career?
Dr. Mark Smith: At the beginning of my professional degree, I was far too focused on the tasks I had in front of me and failed to spend time building my relationships with those around me. The relationships you build with other people matter and are often neglected in many industries.
Name a tool you use for work that you can’t live without.
Dr. Mark Smith: One of my biggest passions is writing. That being said, I cannot live without a computer to share my thoughts, as well as ample research materials to write.
What is your favorite hobby and why?
Dr. Mark Smith: I love being immersed in nature and the great outdoors. Sitting in the woods and hunting really energizes me – especially with the beautiful scenery around me in South Carolina.
What excited you the most about your industry right now?
Dr. Mark Smith: I love that education has to power to change lives for the best. I like that I get to be a part of improving humankind and providing students with the opportunity to expand their horizons through proper education.
What concerns you most about your industry right now?
Dr. Mark Smith: One thing about the educational industry is how much change it experiences. While change is usually well-intended, I think that the specialization and shortening of degrees could potentially damage the quality of learning that students are receiving. I pray for the best learning results through this change.
What’s the greatest risk you’ve ever taken?
Dr. Mark Smith: I recently announced that we would be commencing a multiple ten-million-dollar project for global business and my team wholeheartedly supported me. We have accomplished a pipe dream by taking risks and I am excited to be a part of this through to the end.
Name one small habit that positively impacts your productivity.
Dr. Mark Smith: My whole life, my faith has helped to guide me in the direction of my dreams. For that reason, I pray over daily tasks and for focus. This has greatly impacted my productivity.
What tips do you have for getting a seat at the table?
Dr. Mark Smith: To get a seat around the table, one must first be present in the room. You have to volunteer, serve, and get to know the other players. Serving those in the room is the best way to earn your seat at the table.
What book has made the biggest impact on your life?
Dr. Mark Smith: The Bible has made the biggest impact on my life. I also thoroughly enjoy leadership books written by John C. Maxwell. He is a visionary and his writing is informative and inspiring.
Do you value intelligence or common sense more? Why?
Dr. Mark Smith: I value both intelligence and common sense together. However, intelligence without common sense can be, most times, destructive in leading an organization as I do. The two traits complement each other.
What would you consider to be the perfect day?
Dr. Mark Smith: The perfect day is one that begins with prayer and devoting quality time to spend with God. Then I would go to work – I genuinely love to work. Every day that I am able to use my mind and share ideas with my peers is a great day in my book. I love to listen to others sharing their ideas as well, and would throw in a productive lunch of fellowship. My day would end by spending quality time with my family at home. This would be the perfect day for me.