I AM OXFORD
Whitman Smith, dean of admissions at the University of Mississippi for nearly 29 years, retired in May. During his tenure, Smith helped make the university a magnet for students from around the country and grew the undergraduate population by double digits to the highest enrollment in the school’s history. An Oxford native and fourth-generation UM employee, he plans to stick close to home with his wife and daughter.
Q: What was your pitch for Ole Miss?
A: It’s such an easy sell: everything for less. Where else can you major in 100 things, and have SEC athletics in a small town with such incredible culture? We have writers here signing books every week, live music six nights a week, great people and great (weather) — and it’s all a reasonable price.
Q: What was your favorite part of the job?
A: I loved recruitment. I never wanted to be the director of admissions because you have to tell people ‘no’ when you're in admissions, but the school merged admissions and recruitment.
Q: Where would you like to see Ole Miss heading in the future?
A: I say, “Headlights on and taillights off.” We have to keep moving forward and there’s no returning to the past. There’s a legacy of exclusion here, and that has got to go. It’s not who we are anymore.
Q: Can you share a top tip for college-bound students?
A: Go to a school that you love. Make sure it’s a good fit. Recruiting has changed a lot and there is more competition to recruit, but I’ve always said to a student considering Ole Miss, “Make the best choice for yourself.”
Q: What are you going to do post retirement? Do you think you’ll miss being on campus?
A: I’m a regular guy doing regular guy stuff. I’ve got some house projects and I want to spend more time with my daughter. Admissions is in good hands with an incredible staff of bright, talented people. It was the perfect time to go.
Q: What makes you want to stay in Oxford after you retire?
A: My daughter is still in high school here, and I love Oxford. I love the way it is now, and I also miss the Oxford that existed when I was 10 years old, but you can't go back and you don't want to.