Nichols College Professor Selected to Participate in National Seminar on the ‘20th Century Presidency’

DUDLEY, Mass.—Nichols College Assistant Professor of History Erika Cornelius Smith, Ph.D., is one of a select group of faculty members from across the United States chosen by the Washington, D.C.-based Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History to participate in a special American history seminar on “The 20th Century Presidency.”

The multidisciplinary seminar for faculty members in history, political science, and related fields will explore characteristics of 20th century presidential leadership, including several individual presidents and their presidencies.

From a pool of 77 highly competitive nominations, 30 faculty members were selected to participate in the seminar, which will be held July 23–27, 2017, at Stanford University’s Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Center in Washington, D.C.

In announcing the selection of participants, CIC President Richard Ekman said, “Strengthening the teaching of American history at colleges and universities is of critical importance. This seminar will provide a great opportunity for participating faculty members to gain a better understanding of effective leadership and to explore presidencies within the context of the history known then and now. We believe that Professor Erika Cornelius Smith will play a strong role in the seminar.”

Professor Cornelius Smith is one of only two Massachusetts-based faculty members chosen to participate in the seminar. She was instrumental in the creation and implementation of an on-campus voting awareness program during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign season, and often brings state political figures to Nichols to speak to her students. This fall, she will team-teach a course—“All Politics is Local”—with state Sen. Ryan Fattman, R-Webster. Nichols students will be immersed in examples of the links between the president’s leadership and economic sectors, government institutions, regulatory processes, and social norms on a local-to-global scale.

“As an interdisciplinary professor and scholar, I am passionate about provoking students to think beyond traditional boundaries, both in and out of the classroom,” said Dr. Cornelius Smith. “In any given class, I cajole, query, listen, lecture, quote, joke, play devil’s advocate and generally harangue my students into conversation about the current political issues we’re studying. As a result, my courses not only provide students the requisite knowledge in American history and politics, but they also encourage students to develop critical-thinking skills that will enable them to become more civically aware and engaged.”

Professor Smith has initiated a new minor for this fall, Civic Leadership and Policy Studies, which combines politics, civics, and business. She has published a pair of books with Nichols College Associate Professor of Management Marcus Goncalves, Ed.D., chair of the College's international business program, titled Eastern European Economies: A Region in Transition and Central and Eastern European Economies: Perspectives and Challenges. Dr. Cornelius Smith has also collaborated with an English professor this year on a book chapter. Earlier this year, Dr. Cornelius Smith was one of two faculty members to lead a group of Nichols students in a January 2017 educational program about civics and government at the Washington Center, during which students had the opportunity to witness the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump.

“Dr. Cornelius Smith has a passion for the presidency, which was evident when she interned at The White House in 2004, in the Executive Office of the President,” said Nichols College Academic Affairs Vice President Mauri Pelto, Ph.D. “Now as a faculty member at Nichols College, her students notice her passion for American politics and government and are the beneficiaries of it. Professor Cornelius Smith will bring back a good measure of passion and knowledge to students in her four political science courses this fall, having participated in this seminar in Washington, D.C.”

Robert Dallek, professor of history emeritus at UCLA who now teaches at Stanford in Washington, will lead the seminar. He is the author of numerous books, including Camelot’s Court: Inside the Kennedy White House; Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power; Lyndon B. Johnson, Portrait of a President; the number one New York Times best-seller, An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963; and winner of a Bancroft Prize, Franklin D. Roosevelt and American Foreign Policy, 1932–1945.

“I'm looking forward to working with Robert Dallek and the other scholars participating in the seminar as we explore characteristics of 20th century presidential leadership,” said Professor Cornelius Smith. “The content of the seminar not only aligns with my next book-length project examining the 21st century presidency, but it has also inspired the development of two new undergraduate courses on ‘The American Presidency’ and ‘Seminar in Civic Leadership.’”

Seminar participants will consider presidents’ ability to handle domestic and foreign policy leadership as well as personal qualities including vision, charisma, credibility, and communication and consensus-building skills. The seminar will focus on the administrations of three 20th century presidents: Franklin D. Roosevelt’s presidency will be considered in the context of the Great Depression and World War II, John F. Kennedy’s presidency will be reviewed in the context of the Cold War, and Lyndon B. Johnson’s presidency will be discussed in the context of the Great Society and Vietnam.

The seminar is generously funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.


The Council of Independent Colleges is an association of 768 nonprofit independent colleges and universities and higher education affiliates and organizations that has worked since 1956 to support college and university leadership, advance institutional excellence, and enhance public understanding of private higher education’s contributions to society. CIC is the major national organization that focuses on providing services to leaders of independent colleges and universities as well as conferences, seminars, and other programs that help institutions improve educational quality, administrative and financial performance, and institutional visibility. CIC conducts the largest annual conference of college and university presidents and of chief academic officers. CIC also provides support to state associations that organize programs and generate contributions for their member colleges and universities. The Council is headquartered at One Dupont Circle in Washington, DC. For more information, visit


Founded in 1994 by Richard Gilder and Lewis E. Lehrman, the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History is a nonprofit organization devoted to the improvement of history education. The Institute has developed an array of programs for schools, teachers, and students that now operate in all 50 states, including a website that features more than 60,000 unique historical documents in the Gilder Lehrman Collection. Each year the Institute offers support and resources to tens of thousands of teachers, and through them enhances the education of more than a million students. The Institute’s programs have been recognized by awards from the White House, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Organization of American Historians.


Nichols College in Dudley, Mass., is a college of choice for business and leadership education as a result of its distinctive career-focused and leadership-based approaches to learning, both in and out of the classroom. Founded in 1815, Nichols transforms today’s students into tomorrow’s leaders through a dynamic, career-focused business and professional education. Nichols serves students interested primarily in a comprehensive business education that is supported by a strong liberal arts curriculum.


Lorraine U. Martinelle
Director of Public Relations and Social Media
Nichols College | Learn. Lead. Succeed.
Dudley, Mass.
Email: | Twitter: @NicholsNewsroom

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