Alumni Stories | Coppin State University

Alumni Stories

Alumni Stories


James B. Smith, Ph.D. ’97

A ’97 graduate of Coppin, James B. Smith, Ph.D. has always aspired to working in the non-profit sector as an Executive Director. James’ passion lies in helping people, organizations and systems to solve complex problems. He is energized by assisting organizations gain maximum efficiencies with minimal efforts. “Humanity in the workplace is equally as important,” he said. His fervor lies within the middle of those two centers.

Over the span of his career, James has fulfilled his dream. He has managed three national non-profit organizations—Community Action Council of Howard County, MD, NTL Institute for Applied Behavioral Science and Healthy Teen Network. Now, he is beginning his fourth. After a nationwide search, he said, the Maricopa Economic Development Alliance (MEDA), Maricopa, AZ, hired him as Vice President of Business Development. In this newly minted position, he will design business recruitment initiatives for MEDA on behalf of the City of Maricopa. “This opportunity, like many others I have been afforded, is newly-created. I am literally building and flying this plane at the same time,” James mused.james smith selfie

Economic Development is a competitive field. There are thousands of economic development organizations across the country vying for a very limited number of expansion opportunities and projects. So being creative, he explained, is a necessary tool to both engage business decision makers and to stay connected during the vetting and sales process. “I have to develop and implement strategies that differentiate the City of Maricopa from its competitors across every sector. Innovation lies at the epicenter of my work.”

While James has 25 years of successful leadership and experience, networking has had a key role in his career. Every major career move that occurred in his life happened as a result of his network. “The notion of networking is a powerful tool that helps to leverage the best of us all. I believe that knowledge coupled with networking is an equation for success.” James feels every person you meet should expand one’s influence. 

James grew up on Poplar Grove Street about six blocks away from Coppin. He never imagined he would not only attend the university but would be an employee and serve as adjunct faculty. Additionally, James co-pastors Emmanuel Worship and Deliverance Center, Baltimore. So, these days, he splits his time between both coasts. “I count myself blessed to live in both worlds. Maryland will always be my home, and I love being a native Baltimorean, but I absolutely love the Arizona desert. Arizona will become even more meaningful the coming winter when it’s 15 degrees in Maryland and 80 degrees in Phoenix. I’ll never have to shovel heat.” 

James said he appreciates Coppin State University beyond words. “I was a student, an employee, and now an adjunct faculty member. Coppin is a jewel and serves as a change-agent for the lives she touches. I owe an enormous amount of thanks and appreciation to the Coppin family for embracing and developing me as a person, an executive, and as an academician. My prayer is that Coppin will continue to live and soar.”


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