Award for Global Engagement

2021 Recipient

James L. David Smith
Professor of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology
College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences

Dr. David Smith, distinguished scholar and a leader in wildlife biology in Asia, is especially renowned for his efforts to prevent extinction of the critically endangered tiger (Pathera tigris) found in only 13 countries worldwide. His contributions focus on global engagement abroad and at the University of Minnesota through international education and capacity building in government and academic institutions as well as via scientific publications. He is also recognized for influencing governments to protect major landscapes in Nepal and Thailand.

After earning a Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota, Dr. Smith was hired by his current department in 1985, where he has continued research abroad for 36 years. Early on, he recognized the need to engage senior government officers, scientists, and field technicians in the global effort to conserve tigers by building an international group with shared goals. To create capacity for future work in each country, Dr. Smith trained graduate students to pursue careers focused on tiger and biodiversity conservation, so far totaling 33 doctorate and master’s student degrees representing 13 countries. Many former students now hold influential positions in government, academia, and wildlife conservation organizations.

At the University, Dr. Smith was a leader in creating the Conservation Biology Graduate Program (now Conservation Sciences) in which he advised his international students. To engage undergraduates in global education he developed two highly successful study abroad experiences: a three-week winter break course in Thailand and a semester program in Nepal. Both programs featured co-curricular opportunities in language and cultural training, field skill development, and individual research projects contributing to ongoing conservation challenges. Through his many contributions in Minnesota and Asia, Dr. Smith has passionately promoted global engagement at every opportunity.