Deborah D. Smith

Deb Deutsch Smith is the 2011 recipient of Pitzer College’s Distinguished Alumni Award and also the 2009 recipient of the University of Washington's College of Education Distinguished Alumni Award. She is co-Principal Investigator of the IRIS Center for Training Enhancements. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) funds the Center (Project Number: H325F060003). The IRIS Center is charged with providing the nation with interactive modules and other training materials that focus on the education of students with disabilities. These resources are designed for use by education faculty in college courses and by professional development providers seeking to upgrade the knowledge and skills of practicing education professionals.


Through 2011, Dr. Smith served as the principal investigator of Special Education Faculty Needs Assessment (SEFNA) project. The four-year study funded by OSEP determined that the nation does not have the capacity to prepare a sufficient number of new, highly effective teachers to work with students with disabilities. It also found that the nation is facing an unprecedented rate of special education faculty attrition in the upcoming five years, with some universities losing up to 2/3 of their special education faculty due to retirement alone.


Dr. Smith has directed many federal, state, and local projects and has received over $30 million in funding to support those efforts. For 12 years, she directed the highly successful Alliance Project, a national technical assistance effort funded by OSEP to help faculty working at special education and related services personnel preparation programs housed at minority colleges and universities. The main purpose of that effort was to help these faculty members obtain external funding to support college students preparing to work with students with disabilities in school settings. She also served as the principal investigator of the Special Education Faculty Shortage Study, which is cited in the Congressional Record, in federal legislation, and in appropriations language. That study found that the nation was experiencing chronic shortage of special education doctoral graduates seeking careers in higher education. Findings also indicated that this imbalance in the supply and demand of new faculty was a major factor contributing to the special education teacher shortage nationally.


Dr. Smith has authored over 11 major textbooks, including a best selling introduction to special education text, Introduction to Special Education: Making a Difference, which is in its 7th edition, and is available in Spanish, Polish, Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese, and is being translated into Hebrew. She has written over 31 chapters and book supplements, 50 refereed articles, and many instructional materials for children. Since 1984, Deb has served on the Board of Trustees for Pitzer College, Claremont Colleges, and was recognized as a Life Trustee in 2003.