New Executive Director of Public Safety Named

Message from Mike Howard, Executive Vice President and Barb Stein Vice President for Operations

Dear members of the Tufts community,

We are pleased to announce that Yolanda Smith, an accomplished criminal justice leader, will become Tufts University’s next executive director of public safety, effective July 1, following a national search that attracted more than 100 professionals from across the country. In her role here at Tufts, Yolanda will lead the university’s emergency management, fire safety, threat assessment and management, emergency medical services, and police functions.

Yolanda is currently special sheriff and superintendent of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, where she serves as the chief of staff for a public safety agency with more than 1,000 employees and correctional facilities housing on average 1,400 individuals.

Yolanda joined the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department in 1995, as a corrections officer, and advanced to increasingly senior positions. In collaboration with other staff and community partners, Yolanda introduced gender-specific training and services for women, the first LGBTQI support group, and programs to help young offenders earn high school and college degrees and learn trades. Other innovations included weekly visits to housing units to listen to resident concerns, and the creation of a less-threatening uniform for some personnel so that those in custody were not always in exchanges with fully uniformed officers. Following the killing of George Floyd, she created spaces for those in custody to express themselves in “open circles” and through poetry and art—an approach that has become a model for others.

As you know, Yolanda’s appointment comes at a time of a national reckoning on race and equity, and under President Monaco’s leadership, Tufts is committed to becoming an anti-racist institution. An immediate priority for Yolanda and her team will be implementing the recommendations of the Working Group on Campus Safety and Policing. These recommendations include increased transparency, greater community engagement, increasing the use of non-sworn personnel for routine services, and enhancing our ability to respond to matters involving mental health.

We would like to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the university-wide search committee, which included students, faculty, and staff from all of our campuses. Through the hard work of the search committee—and all those who contributed to this search—we have found in Yolanda a leader whose unwavering commitment to diversity and inclusion, collaborative leadership, and thoughtful innovation distinguished her in an exceptionally strong pool of candidates.

We would also like to thank Interim Director Chip Coletta, the Tufts Public Safety team, and the Tufts University Police Department, all of whom have performed well in the face of unprecedented challenges over the past year. Their professionalism will be an important foundation as we move forward, and we’re grateful for their service to our community.


Mike Howard, Executive Vice President
Barb Stein, Vice President for Operations