Smith's commitment to urban studies led to his becoming Director of the Community-Based Learning (CBL) program at the Weissman Center for Leadership and the Liberal Arts. Smith's Involvement with CBL began with his development of an advanced seminar that utilized CBL pedagogy. In this class students interact with local communities through community-based research and service, allowing them to enhance their understanding of public concerns while fostering leadership and advocacy skills.
Smith is part of group who developed a faculty seminar that examines Puerto Rican history and culture in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and on the island. The unique feature of this seminar is that it combines area college faculty and community leaders from Holyoke. It is targeted to faculty and community-based organizations that collaborate on community-university partnerships. Since many of the families living in Holyoke are Puerto Rican, the seminar focuses on educating CBL students on Puerto Rican history and culture.
Smith believes that one of the ways to best teach politics is to be politically engaged. He is a member of the Interim National Council of the Labor Party, an independent political party that comes out of the labor movement. The Debs-Jones-Douglass Institute, which is the educational and cultural arm of the Labor Party, sponsors the Free Public Higher Education campaign. Smith is currently the co-chair of the Institute's national campaign, which asserts that higher education is a necessity in today’s economy and society and, therefore, should be paid for by the federal government. Modeled after the GI Bill, the campaign would cost $34 billion if everyone currently enrolled at a public institution were to have free tuition and fees. Recuperating the tax cuts that have not benefited working families in this country could pay for this amount.
In addition to his popular community development course, Smith also teaches American Politics; Black Urban Reform; Racial Stratification and Urban Political Economy; and Black and Latino Politics.
- "Mount Holyoke Faculty research has global reach," Office of Communications and Marketing, October 21, 2014
- "Difficult Dialogues: Troubled Cities," Amherst Media, November 25, 2013
- "Preston Smith Opens Doors to Students and Faculty for Weissman Center's Community-Based Learning Program," College Street Journal, Dec. 12, 2003