Micheal Joseph Smith

Michael J Smith

Sorensen Professor of PST, Emeritus

Michael Joseph Smith is the Thomas C. Sorensen Professor of Political and Social Thought and program director; he also is an Associate Professor of Politics. He has had a long connection with the Program. From 1996 to 1999, he served with the late Professor William Lee Miller as Associate Director of PST, before taking over the Directorship in 1999.  Apart from hiatus from 2012-14 (when the program was led by the distinguished historian Allan Megill), he has directed the program since then. He came to direct PST with extensive experience teaching in interdisciplinary programs, including the Philosophy, Politics and Economics program at Oxford University and the Social Studies program at Harvard University. In May of 2022, Professor Smith retired and Professor Isaac Ariail Reed was appointed the Program Director.

A product of public schools in Yonkers, New York, he holds a B.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University, and an M.Phil. from Oxford University, where he was a Marshall Scholar. Professor Smith came to the University of Virginia in 1986, and has taught a wide variety of courses on human rights, political thought, ethics, and international relations. He has served  the University in many capacities: as Chair of the Faculty Senate in 2001-02; and in 2003-2004, with Angela M. Davis as co-chair of the President’s Commission on Diversity and Equity; and recently as the Chair of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Steering Committee. The University has honored Prof. Smith’s teaching in several ways: in 1998, the Seven Society cited his “selfless service to the university;” in 2000 he was chosen to present in the university’s  “Last Lecture” series;  in 2001, he received an  All-University Teaching Award;  and in 2007 he was chosen as  a Mead Fellow in recognition of his service to undergraduates; in 2007 he also received the Serpentine Society Faculty Service Award.  In 2012 he received the Raven Society Faculty Award.  That same year the University’s IMP society cited him with its Outstanding Faculty Leadership award. In 2013 the Z Society also presented him its Outstanding Faculty Award.

Professor Smith has been active in promoting the inclusion of ethical questions in university courses on international politics. In 1995 he led a six-week National Endowment for the Humanities-sponsored seminar for college professors on ‘Teaching Ethics and International Relations.’  Since then, he has participated in many similar faculty workshops at places ranging from West Point, Annapolis,and the Air Force Academy, to Harvard, Boston and Columbia universities. He serves as a Trustee of the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Relations in New York.

Professor Smith is the author of Realist Thought from Weber to Kissinger; co-editor and co-author of Ideas and Ideals; and of many essays and articles on the ethical dilemmas raised by contemporary international politics. He was a research consultant and contributor to the UN-sponsored International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty that resulted in the report The Responsibility to Protect.