Dan Smith Receives 2017 Dottie Welch Award

dan smith

Dan Smith is surrounded by Optics students after receiving this year’s Dottie Welch award during the Hajim School Design Day at Goergen Athletic Center.

Dan Smith is 'always there for us,' Optics students say

The loud applause and enthusiastic shouts that erupted when Dan Smith’s name was announced swelled in intensity as he stepped forward – a clear indication he was a popular choice for this year’s Dottie Welch Student Enrichment Award.

The award, named for the former undergraduate coordinator in biomedical engineering, is presented annually to a Hajim School staff member who exemplifies the passionate interest Welch took in helping her students. Smith, the undergraduate program manager in The Institute of Optics, is the third recipient of the award.

“He supports us through everything, from being an administrator to life advice,” said Michael Dupuis, a senior in optical engineering. “He’s always there for us.”

He’s not alone in that opinion. Jennifer Condit, last year’s recipient of the award, read a sampling of other comments from optics students:

• He has brought an unprecedented enthusiasm and joie de vivre into the role, and succeeds in communicating this to the students, faculty, and other members of the staff. With an impeccable organization scheme for students of all years. . . Dan has made the undergraduate experience a whole lot smoother by making administrative matters a minor concern such that we can focus on our academics.
• Dan is the heart of the optics department. . . . he makes a point of getting to know all of the undergraduates personally.
• He'll do whatever it takes to help a student succeed and truly cares about the students and material he teaches.

Lori Russell, administrator of the Institute, praised the many “creative and constructive” ways the former Navy helicopter pilot has strengthened the Institute’s undergraduate program since arriving three years ago.

For example, Smith plans, organizes, and executes the annual summer Photon Camp that gives 25-30 high school students an introduction to optics. He also runs an undergraduate education series that includes financial management, information about the Industrial Associate program that links optics students to potential employers in the field, interviewing and networking skills, and study abroad.

“Dan does this series on his own time as a benefit to the students,” Russell said. “He gets no extra compensation from this.”

Dupuis said he was especially appreciative of the advice Smith gave him in preparing a resume. “When I had to decide between internships, he helped walk me through where I should go, what I should do,” Dupuis added. “He was really invested; he really cared.”

“He has a lot of common sense.”

Added Condit: ” Dan has consistently been an outstanding undergraduate coordinator, above and beyond the requirements of the job. He is always there when you need him and a pleasure to work with. For these reasons and many others, we are happy to award him the 2016 Dottie Welch Student Enrichment Award.”