Michael Joseph Smith headshot

Michael Joseph Smith

Michael Joseph Smith is the Thomas C. Sorensen Professor of Political and Social Thought at the University of Virginia.  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. After serving as an Assistant Professor of Government and Social Studies at Harvard from 1982-85, Prof. 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. 

Since 1999 he has directed the Program in Political and Social Thought, an honors interdisciplinary major for undergraduates. Professor Smith has served the University in many capacities, perhaps most notably as Chair of the Faculty Senate in 2001-02.   In 2003-2004, with Angela M. Davis, he co-chaired the President’s Commission on Diversity and Equity; its recommendations have been adopted as policy for the University.  In 2009, he served as the Academic Dean for the Semester at Sea, leading the voyage’s academic program. He has also served as a mentor to younger faculty in the University’s Excellence in Diversity program.  From 2014-16 he chaired the Steering Committee of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

The University of Virginia 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 as the Serpentine Society (UVa’s LGBT alumni association) 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; and in 2015, the Z Society presented him with its Faculty Award.

Professor Smith has been active in promoting the inclusion of ethical questions in university courses on international politics. In 1995, with the Carnegie Council, 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, and he is a founding faculty associate of the Institute of Practical Ethics and Public Policy at the University of Virginia.

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.   His current research focuses on human rights in theory and practice. He recently published a paper on the “Ethical Dilemmas of Encountering Other Cultures,” as part of a project for  the U.S. Army Research Institute.

Thomas C. Sorensen Professor of Political and Social Thought and Associate Professor of Politics

S396 Gibson Hall
Office Hours: Wed 2-5 Th 2-4 and by appointment.

New Content Coming Soon!