Judith L. Smith

Professor and Founding Dean

Vice Provost and Dean for Undergraduate Education (Emerita)



Neurocontrol of limb movement, innovation and improvement in undergraduate education, faculty governance, music and the brain, opera.

Ph.D. University of Wisconsin; B.S. University of California, Santa Barbara

Judith Smith began her UCLA career in the fall of 1969 as an assistant professor in physiological science. Her tenure on campus is marked by successes in teaching, research, and service. She received a Distinguished Teaching Award in 1973, was the chair of her department for five years (1980-85), and one of the founders of the undergraduate interdisciplinary neuroscience program in 1991. NIH continuously funded her research on spinal cord physiology and limb dynamics for 27 years, and in 1990, she received a Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award, an honor granted to neuroscientists with a history of “exceptional talent, imagination, and preeminent scientific achievement.”

Smith was the chair of UCLA’s Academic Senate (1994-95), served as interim executive dean of the College of Letters and Science (2003-04), and was the chair of the College Cabinet of Deans from 2009 to 2012. Smith was appointed the first dean and vice provost for undergraduate education in 1996. She established the Division of Undergraduate Education and was responsible for spearheading the creation of Freshman Clusters, Fiat Lux Freshman Seminars, the Writing II requirement, Undergraduate Research Centers, the Center for Community Learning, as well as the Scholarship Resource Center.

In 2015, Smith led the efforts to establish The UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music and was named Interim Dean, and then on March 1, 2017, Smith was appointed Founding Dean. Though a scientist by training, Smith has a steadfast commitment to the School's academic programs, an abiding belief in the importance of the arts, and a deep love of music. She studied piano for 12 years and then harpsichord as a music minor at UCSB. Smith also played the bassoon and has an unabashed love for opera and the American Musical.